Auditors got 'incomplete picture' of transactions
THEY were supposed to act as checks and balances within City Harvest Church (CHC) to prevent the misuse of church funds, but the oversight committees and the management board were run by founder Kong Hee and his fellow conspirators.
Several of them had also allegedly kept information from fellow committee members not within the conspiracy, to prevent them from discovering the misuse of funds.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Christopher Ong made those points yesterday to rubbish Kong's claim that the church's "internal control bodies", such as the audit and finance committees, would have stopped the alleged sham transactions if they were really so.
DPP Ong added that, contrary to Kong's claims that auditors and lawyers had vetted the deals, the professionals had been given "an incomplete picture" by the defendants and so could not have detected the alleged misuse.
Kong and five others face various charges for their part in allegedly misappropriating some $50 million of the church's funds to boost the music career of Kong's wife, Ho Yeow Sun, and then to cover up the misdeed.
The alleged sham transactions had taken place from 2007 to 2009. DPP Ong showed that, in 2007, Kong was president of the church's management board, while fellow defendants Tan Ye Peng and John Lam Leng Hung were treasurer and secretary, respectively. There were seven other board members.
From Sept 2006 to June 2007, a few months before the first alleged sham transaction was carried out, four of the five finance committee members were those facing charges now - Tan, Lam, Chew Eng Han and Serina Wee.
Lam was also chairman of the audit committee in 2007, while Tan and the sixth defendant, Sharon Tan, were members, said DPP Ong. He added that, in 2007 and 2008, Wee was the church finance manager until Sharon Tan took over.
DPP Ong also produced e-mail messages between Wee, Chew and Lam in 2007 to show that they had discussed hiding information from two other finance committee members. Chew, the church's investment manager at the time, had asked Wee to withhold information about the alleged sham bonds from one of them "who is not 100 per cent with CHC".
Kong disagreed with DPP Ong's statement that Lam had been helping to hide the bonds' alleged sham nature so the two members would not eventually question whether the bonds were genuine.
"Even if John failed in his corporate governance duties, it doesn't change the fact that when professionals were consulted, they didn't say the transactions had a sham nature," Kong said.
DPP Ong then pointed to a 2007 e-mail message in which Wee had asked Tan Ye Peng if money used to buy Ms Ho's CDs in Taiwan could be "not captured anywhere and we don't need to justify to the auditors".
On Kong maintaining that he and his defendants had sought auditor Foong Daw Ching's advice on the allegedly suspect transactions, DPP Ong said: "You and your co-accused would... tell (Mr Foong) an incomplete picture."
Disagreeing, Kong said the defendants had gone to Mr Foong as they wanted genuine advice. They had been "pretty detailed in what was being spelt out, the transactions, the steps", he said.
He added: "If I know that my house is dirty and that somebody is scrutinising my home, why would I invite him to come to my home and have the possibility of finding dirt? I would want to stay as far away from him as possible."