On his third day on the stand, John Lam reiterates his commitment to his church, his pastor and his roles as treasurer, audit committee member and investment committee member of CHC.
Much ground was covered this afternoon, as Senior Counsel Kenneth Tan rounded up the examination-in-chief of his client, John Lam. Defense lawyers for Kong Hee and Sharon Tan, Jason Chan and Senior Counsel Kannan Ramesh respectively, followed on with their examinations of Lam before co-defendant Chew Eng Han proceeded with his questioning.
That “Rigorous” Conversation John Lam Had With Church’s Auditor
The morning’s began with the topic of the “rigorous” discussion Lam had had with Tan Ye Peng and the church’s auditor Sim Guan Seng over the convertible Xtron bonds. When asked by Ramesh if he felt that Sim wanted the Xtron bonds to be taken off CHC’s books, Lam said yes.
Given that Lam and Tan had this impression from Sim—coupled with concerns that declaring Xtron as a related party to CHC would affect its ability to purchase commercial property for the church’s use, plus the risk of incurring substantial time and cost if the Xtron and Firna bonds remained on CHC’s books—the plan was subsequently made to restructure the bonds and remove the bonds from CHC’s books.
This ultimately resulted in the signing of the ARLA (Advanced Rental License Agreement) between CHC and Xtron in 2008. Lam confirmed that when these bond restructuring plans were brought up in two board meetings, nobody raised any objections.
Why Lam Needed To Project Sales Figures From US Album
As the church treasurer, audit committee member and investment committee member, Lam had been approached by Serina Wee regarding several audit issues regarding the church’s Xtron bond investments, as heard in court yesterday.
Lam took it upon himself to carry out a preliminary valuation of Xtron, based on projected album sales of S$16m and S$23m in 2011 and 2012. For the purposes of this exercise, he had asked Wee for the number of albums to be launched, number of copies to be sold, the income per copy and whether there was an album contract, among other things, so that he was able to “justify” the sales figures.
To that, Wee replied that everything was still “in the discussion stage” and that no distribution contract had been entered into. Lam told the court he took it to mean that the information he was seeking was not yet ready and would be supplied at a later time.
Today, In response to Kong’s defense lawyer, Chan, who asked why Lam saw the need to “justify” the sales projections when he had earlier expressed strong confidence that he knew his pastor (Kong) would not fail in whatever task he undertook, Lam clarified that despite his confidence in Kong, he still needed a basis in order to support the figures he used to carry out the Xtron valuation.
In answer to a question SC Kenneth Tan put to Lam yesterday, Chan produced in court a chain of emails which showed that the EOGM speech Kong delivered to the church’s executive members in August 2008 was read from a script prepared by a staff member. The script contained input from fund manager Chew Eng Han and Jimmy Yim, the church’s lawyer at that time. Chan pointed out that there was no mention in the script of a bank loan, and asked Lam if that could have been one reason why his client did not mention the bank loan in his speech. To that, deputy public prosecutor Mavis Chionh objected on the basis that he was seeking opinion evidence from Lam, and the question was withdrawn.
Lam told the court that his friendship with Kong started back in 1987, when CHC was not yet a church and Kong was his cell group leader. He testified that it was he who raised the idea of the church investing its surplus funds back in 1998 or 1999—after hearing Kong’s teaching on the parable of the 10 talents, which was about wise stewardship of what one has been entrusted with. Before that, the church had not made any investments.
Asked if he would ever intentionally do anything to harm the church, there was a noticeable pause before the longtime church member replied that for the past 30 years, his life had revolved around his family, his job and his church, and that he had never made any personal gains from the church, except for spiritual gain and the gains of friendship, “which has been since I met Pastor Kong from 1987 until now.”
Fellow defendant Chew Eng Han, who is representing himself, started his questioning of John Lam from his position in the dock. Referring to himself as “junior counsel”, which drew some laughs, Chew took issue with Lam’s testimony that Chew was the one who had approached Lam with the idea for Xtron, to use it as the artiste management firm for Sun Ho’s music career.
Chew produced two emails, including a 2002 email from fellow defendant Tan Ye Peng inviting Chew to take up a directorship in Xtron; Lam conceded that based on those emails, his statement would not be accurate.
In response to a question about a board meeting in May 2002 when the CHC Board verified contracts that Kong had entered into without the empowerment of the Board, Lam told Chew that the board was “not shocked” by it because Kong was the one who led the church and had the vision for the “Crossover”: becoming more contemporary as a church in order to connect with unchurched youth.
In wrapping up the day’s session, Chew produced a paper detailing the “newly aggressive” approach taken by sovereign wealth fund GIC (The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation Pte Ltd) in its recent purchase of US$700mil worth of unrated bonds from computer maker Lenovo. Paralleling this to CHC’s purchase of Xtron bonds in 2007 and 2008—at a time when the US subprime mortgage crisis was at its worst, Lam agreed with Chew that the Crossover Project was a risky undertaking.
The court had heard on Monday that Lam was informed by Chew that should Xtron default on the bonds, Wahju Hanafi, one of the biggest sponsors of the Crossover Project, would personally indemnify any losses incurred from the Crossover Project, through a personal guarantee.
Court resumes tomorrow morning at 9:30am.
中文报道 – CHC审讯：林表示：“我唯一从教会得到的利益乃属灵利益”