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 The Online Star reports,

Internal panic within City Harvest

The Ren Ci scandal sparked an internal panic within the City Harvest Church, with church leaders frantically trying to ensure that their own investments in church-linked companies were aboveboard, a court heard.

This happened in 2008, about a year after the church had invested S$13mil (RM33.5mil) in Xtron Productions, a music production firm that was managing City Harvest co-founder Ho Yeow Sun’s singing career at the time.

Several of the six church leaders accused of misusing church funds had in fact reached out to auditor Foong Daw Ching and prepared documents about the church’s transactions for him to review.

This was shown through telephone logs and text messages which were produced by the church leaders’ defence team yesterday.

The defence also strongly suggested that Foong had in fact read and discussed one particular document with the accused.

This set out the church’s relationship to Xtron and other companies, as well as the legal risks that the financial transactions could entail.

Foong, who had earlier insisted that he did not recall seeing this document, admitted: “I would have read it and there must have been some discussion.”

Defence lawyers have been trying to prove that Foong gave the accused detailed advice about various allegedly suspect transactions, and that church leaders had followed his advice.

City Harvest founder Kong Hee, who is Ho’s husband, and five of his deputies are on trial for alleged misuse of S$50mil (RM128mil) in church funds. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Source: Internal panic within City Harvest, The Online Star, http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Regional/2013/09/19/Internal-panic-within-City-Harvest-Defence-Church-leaders-sought-to-ensure-investments-were-aboveb.aspx, 19/09/2013. (Accessed 23/09/2013.)

Straits Times also reports,

City Harvest trial: Kong Hee offered to step down to minimise conflict of interest

City Harvest founder Kong Hee was once so concerned about possibly bringing harm to the church that he offered to step down from its management board, said defence lawyers on Tuesday during an ongoing criminal trial into him and five of his deputies.

Kong Hee expressed his concerns about a year before a series of investments were made, which the State believes were shams meant to funnel church funds illegally to wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun’s career. He asked auditor Foong Daw Ching in an email in 2006, whether Ms Ho receiving a salary from church-linked firm Xtron Productions would pose a problem. Xtron was managing Ms Ho’s music career at the time.

“Sun is paid totally from non-CHC (City Harvest Church) sources… (but) I’m personally very troubled as I don’t wish to bring any potential reproach to the church or its various ministry. If there is simply no way out… Sun and I are even willing to resign from the Management Board of CHC, if that would help diffuse the semblance of any conflict of interest on her part,” he wrote.

Mr Edwin Tong, defence lawyer for Kong, also tried to show that Mr Foong the auditor knew more about the investments than he let on. Several of the six accused had written e-mails saying Mr Foong had endorsed or given advice about the investments, although Mr Foong insisted that these were inaccurate.

Mr Tong said it was “incredible” that the auditor did not seem to recall reading any of the emails he had been sent regarding the transactions, given that the church was a “major” client of the firm.

Mr Foong replied that City Harvest’s audit team was led by another person at his firm whom he would have deferred to, and he had his own “heavy” portfolio of clients at the time.

Source: Feng Zengkun, City Harvest trial: Kong Hee offered to step down to minimise conflict of interest, Straits Times, http://www.straitstimes.com/the-big-story/chc-funds-case/story/city-harvest-trial-kong-hee-offered-step-down-minimise-conflict-i, 17/09/2013. (Accessed 23/03/2013.)