Prosecution’s examination in chief—comprising a string of scenarios to which witness Sim Guan Seng was asked to hypothesize—came to an end today.
The morning session saw Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong questioning witness Sim Guan Seng further on various documents and financial spreadsheets he had not previously seen. Sim is the managing partner of Baker Tilly, the audit company for City Harvest Church and Xtron.
One of the documents shown to Sim this morning was an internal spreadsheet showing the summary of usage for the advance rental CHC had given to Xtron.
Ong spent much of the morning on a fund known as the Special Opportunities Fund offered by AMAC as an investment for the church which yielded a fixed return. Sim was shown another spreadsheet showing the breakdown of the advance rental license agreement entered into between CHC and Xtron.
“If you had seen this email” was the DPP’s constant question to the witness, asking him for his opinions on a slew of internal documents and emails between the accused. Although senior counsel N. Sreenivasan repeatedly objected to the line of questioning, suggesting that it was “opinion evidence”, the court allowed prosecution to continue the same treatment for around seven documents.
Sim’s answers were continually prefixed with “if” — he provided hypothetical scenarios in response to the prosecutions’ interpretations of the documents.
He told the court that based on an exhibit presented to him, he found it strange that CHC had invested $11m in the Special Opportunities Fund: $5.3m were loaned to Ultimate Assets (which invested into Firna, as explained during Wahju Hanafi’s examination in chief). Another $5.8m appeared to have been paid to CHC as returns for earlier investments.
The DPP ended his examination in chief of Sim by pulling out minutes of a July 2012 meeting between CHC’s board members and the auditors from Baker Tilly. Ong asked Sim why he had discharged Baker Tilly as CHC’s auditor in October 2013. Sim claimed it was because he felt the church board had not answered his questions—particularly those about the Special Opportunities Fund—to his satisfaction.
Ong proceeded to attempt to question Sim about a $21.2m amount that appeared in the minutes as an unrecovered sum. However, following the objections of senior counsels N. Sreenivasan and Michael Khoo, who pointed out that the amount was a post-case investment, the court instructed Ong to drop the line of questioning.
When court resumed at 2.30 this afternoon, the prosecution ended its examination in chief. Sreenivasan closed the session by clarifying that the defense stood by its statement early on in the case that no money was lost by City Harvest Church in the transactions that are material in the case now. He reiterated that all money had been returned with interest, and that the $21.2m introduced by the prosecution was a post-case investment that had no bearing on the ongoing trial.
Cross examination of Sim begins tomorrow at 9.30am.