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The defense says that there is “no case against CHC leaders” while the prosecution claims that the “accused fed auditors a pack of lies”.

Yonggi Cho Kong Hee Phil Pringle

Channel News Asia reports,

No case against City Harvest Church leaders, say lawyers

The defence lawyers representing the six leaders of City Harvest Church have attacked the prosecution’s case, saying that no evidence has been produced to show that the accused misused church funds.

SINGAPORE: The defence lawyers representing the six leaders of City Harvest Church have attacked the prosecution’s case, saying that no evidence has been produced to show that the accused misused church funds.

This comes after 42 days of trial and evidence from 14 prosecution witnesses.

Chief District Judge See Kee Oon has to decide after the submissions, if the defence has a case to answer.

Church founder Kong Hee and five of his deputies are accused of misusing millions of the church’s building fund monies to boost the career of Kong’s wife, singer Sun Ho.

They are accused of doing so through “sham bond investments” and by round-tripping the funds.

A key argument was with regard to how the charges were framed.

The prosecution’s case is that the accused were entrusted with the church funds and had full control over them.

But the defence said this was not true.

It pointed out that there was no resolution passed by the church board, indicating who were the people who were decision makers and could control the church funds.

As such, the defence’s point was that the church board decided on the use of church funds as a whole.

Another point made by the defence was that the church’s building fund could be invested and in this case, it was invested in Xtron, which was a firm the church supported and knew about.

The money invested in Xtron was then used to fund the Crossover Project, which was used for evangelism and the church members all knew about it.

So there was no concealment and there was no dishonesty about it.

The prosecution in the City Harvest Church case mounted a stinging rebuttal yesterday as it sought to prove it had presented enough evidence for the trial to continue.

Tearing into arguments by the defence, Chief Prosecutor Mavis Chionh strived to show again that the six accused had varyingly cooked deals to misuse church funds, “fed a pack of lies” to auditors and “created false appearances in City Harvest’s books”, reports The Straits Times.

“There is clearly enough evidence for the defence to be called,” she said, after taking the court through a summary of the prosecution’s case.

She was responding to defence lawyers who had argued that, despite 42 days of trial since last May and 14 prosecution witnesses, the prosecution had failed to show enough evidence for the charges against their clients.

The defence wants the case thrown out. The judge will rule on that on May 5.

Church founder Kong Hee and five others are accused of misusing about $50 million in church funds in total. While their lawyers had consistently said auditors vetted and approved allegedly suspicious transactions, Ms Chionh said relying on this defence was “misconceived at best and disingenuous at worst” as the prosecution believes the accused hid information from the auditors.

She pointed to church auditor Sim Guan Seng, who had said earlier in the trial that he would have “raised some red flags” about certain transactions had he been privy to more information.

The defence said some of the information had existed in his audit firm Baker Tilly TFW’s archives.

By relying on the auditors’ approval as a defence now, the accused were “like the fraudster who manages to hide his own crimes, then tries to rely on his success in hiding that crime to exonerate himself”, Ms Chionh said.

She also disagreed with lawyer Andre Maniam’s assertion that his client, former finance manager Serina Wee, had not been dishonest and could not be guilty of criminal breach of trust since the “church money was used for church purposes”.

While part of the allegedly misused funds was spent to advance the pop music career of Kong’s wife Ho Yeow Sun, defence lawyers said the church had accepted her music as a form of evangelism.

Ms Chionh said the evidence showed the money had been illegally taken from the church’s building fund.

While the defence lawyers said the prosecution had taken e-mails and messages among the accused out of context and misinterpreted them, Ms Chionh disagreed, adding that “the totality of the evidence was sufficient” to call for the defence.

Source: City Harvest Trial: Accused fed auditors a pack of lies, say Prosecution, http://thecourtroom.stomp.com.sg/courtroom/cases/city-harvest-case/city-harvest-trial-accused-fed-auditors-a-pack-of-lies-say-prosecution, The Courtroom, Posted on 10 April 2014. (Accessed 14/04/2014.)