Singapore Law Watch have published an article on the recent developments in the CHC Case:
SINGAPORE] In what was perhaps one of the more highly anticipated moments of this long-running trial, former City Harvest Church (CHC) member Chew Eng Han – representing himself for the first time since the resumption of the hearing – grilled his former fellow church-goer and board member John Lam, who was on the stand.
Among other things, Chew – who has no legal training – had Lam admit that he had given inaccurate evidence at an earlier stage of the trial.
The pair are among the six accused of having “dishonestly misappropriated” some $24 million of CHC’s Building Fund to finance Sun Ho’s music career and then “round-tripping” another $26.6 million to cover the alleged misappropriation. The others on trial are Ms Ho’s husband, senior pastor and co-founder Kong Hee, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, finance manager Sharon Tan and former finance manager and board member Serina Wee.
Chew, in a clear break from the others, quit the church in June last year; he also discharged his lawyer, Senior Counsel Michael Khoo, and is now defending himself.
When his turn came to cross-examine Lam, he challenged the latter’s assertion that it was Chew who came to Lam with the idea of setting up Xtron Productions to manage CHC’s evangelical effort, the Crossover Project. Through his line of questioning, Chew accused Lam of submitting false evidence:
“Mr Lam, I’m putting it to you right now: I didn’t approach you, I didn’t have this grand vision of a media events company. I had a full-time job – State Street Bank at the time. I was not into entertainment, nor into concerts; I wouldn’t even have had the time to think about it.
“So I put it to you that the evidence you have given to the court – that it was my idea – is false.”
Lam maintained that he had testified that Chew was the originator of the idea because it was Chew who approached him in May 2003 about having Xtron act as the artiste manager for Ms Ho. Chew argued that, since this hearing began, Lam has had sight of e-mails that showed that Chew was not the originator of the idea; the correspondence showed that others – included Kong and Tan Ye Peng – were discussing the idea before Chew came into the picture.
Chew said to Lam: “These two e-mails (exhibits), E-653, E-281, weren’t they already in your hands since the trial started? So, you would have read them before you gave your statement.”
Lam replied: “My statement was that, at the time, in May 2003, I had no knowledge that someone else was asking (Chew) Eng Han to tell me to set up Xtron . . . because it was Eng Han who approached me about being a director in Xtron.”
To which, Chew said: “Mr Lam, I’m not asking for your recollection of May 2003. I’m asking for your recollection since the trial started – you would have access to these two e-mails, and you would have gone through them. And (I’m) asking – (having) read through those e-mails, how could you come up with the statement that it was Chew Eng Han who started Xtron?”
At which point, Chief District Judge See Kee Oon stepped in: “Mr Chew, you are basically saying that Mr Lam has given evidence which is at least inaccurate. So, do you agree with this, Mr Lam?”
At this point, Lam conceded, replying: “Your Honour, yes, I agree.”
Senior Counsel N Sreenivasan, who is representing Sharon Tan, pointed out Chew’s lack of legal credentials, but this has been a shortfall to which Chew has not been adverse to admitting.
When he opened his cross-examination of Lam, he had quipped: “I would just like to make a bit of a request: when the counsel in front, when you hand out new exhibits, don’t forget there’s a little junior counsel here. I need some of the documents too.”
At another point, following an argument between the prosecution and defence counsel over a point of law, Chew said: “I don’t understand what all these counsel are saying.”
The Straits Times also reports,
Former friends clash in bid to discredit testimony
Chew grills Lam on claim that Chew had discretion to make investment plans
IT WAS a showdown yesterday between two men who used to be friends and comrades-in-arms on the City Harvest Church board.
Chew Eng Han, who oversaw its investments, mounted a feisty examination of former board member John Lam, who took the stand for a third day. Both men are among six accused on trial.
Chew, 54, was asking the questions himself as he had discharged his lawyer in May, citing a “deep personal conviction” of the need to defend himself.
He had also abruptly quit the church in June last year over deep-seated differences.
Yesterday, he was dogged in trying to discredit Lam’s testimony that Chew, the church’s former fund manager under Amac Capital Partners, had “complete and unfettered discretion” to make investment plans. These included the alleged sham transactions that are central to the present trial.
Lam has maintained that he only had a piecemeal idea of what was going on.
The six persons, including church founder Kong Hee, are accused of funnelling about $50 million of the church’s building fund monies into alleged bogus deals with events firm Xtron Productions and glass manufacturer Firna, to bankroll the secular pop music career of Kong’s wife Ho Yeow Sun.
In the one hour that Chew had before the hearing adjourned, he got Lam to admit he was wrong in his earlier testimony that it was Chew’s idea in 2003 to start Xtron to manage Ms Ho’s career.
Chew cited two e-mails, previously tendered in court as evidence, that showed the idea might have come instead from deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng. He said: “I didn’t approach you, I didn’t have this grand vision of a media events company. I had a full-time job, State Street Bank, at the time.”
He asked why Lam pointed the finger at him, despite having full access to the e-mails. Lam countered that he was citing his “state of mind at the contemporaneous time” in his previous answer, but later conceded that his evidence was inaccurate.
Chew also sought to justify the investments by arguing that the church had always had an appetite for risk since it began investing its surplus funds in 1998 or 1999. To prove that his financial acumen was sound, Chew recounted how he had at the time pumped $2.2 million of church funds into one single stock – Superbowl Holdings.
While Lam said there were “some concerns” from the board, Chew said he “wasn’t afraid” even when the stock plunged. The church eventually made $550,000 when it sold its stock years later.
Asked separately if it was a “dishonest act” to buy junk bonds or unrated bonds, Lam conceded it was not. Chew then cited a recent Reuters article reporting a “newly aggressive approach” by Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, investing in unrated Chinese bonds it would likely hold to maturity.
He said: “That’s what we intended for Xtron and Firna bonds, to hold (them) to maturity.”
Earlier, Lam stood by what he told investigators about Kong, when questioned by Kong’s lawyer Jason Chan of his opinions. He had called Kong “a person of great integrity, one who only thinks of the church and not for personal gain”.
Mr Chan later withdrew the question, after prosecutors pointed out that if evidence of Kong’s good character was taken in court, the Evidence Act allowed them to call witnesses to prove otherwise.
Notable exchanges in court
“I didn’t approach you, I didn’t have this grand vision of a media events company. I had a full-time job, State Street Bank, at the time. I was not into entertainment nor into concerts. I wouldn’t even have the time to think about it. So I put it to you that the evidence you have given to the court, that it was my idea, is false.”
– Chew Eng Han to John Lam, who had earlier testified that it was the former who came up with the idea to set up Xtron Productions to manage the secular pop music career of church founder Kong Hee’s wife Ho Yeow Sun as part of the Crossover Project
“To (counsel) in front, when you hand out new exhibits, don’t forget there’s a little junior counsel here.”
– Chew appealing to other defence lawyers, in a light-hearted moment yesterday, to remember that he was representing himself
IN SERVICE OF CHURCH
“Since 1987, all the demands of my life have been placed on three things: my family, my job and the church. Since I joined City Harvest, I’ve nothing but served, given my time, my demands, sometimes to the detriment of my career and my family. I’ve given my money, I’ve not taken any money from the church. If there’s any gain, I would say those are spiritual gains, they were gains of friendship. My core beliefs have always been to serve.”
– Lam’s passionate reply when asked if he would do anything intentionally that harms the church. Lam met Kong Hee, who was his cell group leader then, in 1987. Lam was a founding member when Kong founded City Harvest two years later
Source: Walter Sim, Former friends clash in bid to discredit testimony, Straits Times, http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore/story/former-friends-clash-bid-discredit-testimony-20140717, Updated 17/07/2014. (Accessed 17/07/2014.)