Wednesday, October 22, 2014

City Harvest Church leaders tried to "bamboozle" auditor: Prosecution

By Alice Chia : 25 Sep 2014 Channel NewsAsia

Messages between church leaders Sharon Tan and Chew Eng Han were cited by prosecutors as proof that they tried to not let the church's auditor find out that church funds were used to redeem Firna bonds.

SINGAPORE: At the City Harvest Church trial on Thursday (Sep 25), the prosecution said finance manager Sharon Tan was not the "innocent follower" that she tried to paint herself as, when it came to plans to use church funds to redeem sham bonds.

Tan was taking the stand for the tenth day. She is one of six church leaders who are accused of using millions of dollars from the church's building fund to buy sham bonds in two companies, Firna and Xtron.

Lead prosecutor for the case, Mavis Chionh, showed the court messages between Tan and co-accused Chew Eng Han, in which Tan proposed using a third party to redeem the Firna bonds. She had proposed using Pacific Radiance, a company linked to member John Lam who is one of those on trial.

In one message, Tan said that even if church auditor Mr Sim Guan Seng suspected that church monies were used to redeem the bonds, "he can't fault or pinpoint". The prosecution accused Tan and Chew of trying to "bamboozle" Mr Sim and not let him find out that church funds were used to redeem the Firna bonds.

Tan disagreed and said that she was worried about "disclosure" as she had the understanding that the drawdown from the Firna bonds would be used to support the Crossover Project, which involved church co-founder Sun Ho recording and launching secular music albums.

The prosecution also showed a chart drawn by Chew during a meeting on Sep 29, 2008, with co-accused Serina Wee and Tan. The chart illustrated the flow of funds and transactions for the redemption of Xtron and Firna bonds. After the meeting, Tan updated deputy senior pastor and co-accused Tan Ye Peng about the plans.

It is the prosecution's case that these were not genuine investments and that the four accused were planning to use church funds to redeem the Firna bonds by roundtripping the funds in a series of transactions.

For example, in one chain of transactions, the church would invest S$11.4 million in a Special Opportunities Fund by investment company AMAC Capital Partners (AMAC), which has Chew as its sole director.

AMAC would then loan the amount to Ultimate Assets, a company owned by Indonesian businessman and church member Wahju Hanafi. Ultimate Assets would in turn loan the amount to Firna, which would use the money to redeem the bonds.

- CNA/xy

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