City Harvest leaders have a case to answer: judge
The six accused persons in the City Harvest funds misappropriation trial are willing to take the stand to testify in their defence when it resumes in July after the judge ruled there was a case they needed to respond to.
In his decision, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon, who is presiding over the case, said on Monday that the prosecution has provided sufficient evidence for the charges faced by founder Kong Hee, pastor Tan Ye Peng, John Lam, accountants Serina Wee and Sharon Tan, as well as former church leader Chew Eng Han.
The charges include criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts, among others centering around the alleged misuse of some $24 million of City Harvest Church (CHC) building funds to further Kong’s wife Ho Yeow Sun’s singing career, as well as the alleged use of $26.6 million to conceal the first amount.
Noting that the evidence presented is more documentary than it is oral — in the form of numerous emails — Judicial Commissioner See said it was sufficient, in his assessment, to support the contention that CHC's money was misappropriated.
"There is evidence that the relevant accused persons all intended that loss should be caused to CHC," he said, referring to the removal of money from the church's building fund and transferring it to Xtron Productions, the entertainment firm backing Ho's career. "Moreover, from the evidence, it would appear that the accused persons knew that they were not legally entitled to do so."
The judge also said that the evidence produced in court thus far "demonstrates that the accused persons withheld some important information from the auditors", as well as from executive members of CHC.
Also, because there is evidence that the accused knew that the building fund could be used for specific purposes only, Judicial Commissioner See said it can reasonably be inferred that they were dishonest, because they knew they were not legally allowed to use the money the way the did.
He also said that in his view, evidence has been produced to show that the accounts relating to the monies in question were falsely declared. Further, he said the evidence shows that they "had intended all along that money would be 'round-tripped' from and back to CHC, but nonetheless kept the true nature of these transactions from the auditors and CHC's executive members".
Lawyers for all six on Monday expressed their clients’ willingness to take the stand to give evidence when the trial starts again on 14 July. They declined further comment when approached by reporters outside court.