Court hears that Kong Hee’s input into Xtron’s salary and manpower policies was out of concern for former staff who had left the “comfort of a stable nest” to work in the start-up Xtron.
It was a full capacity crowd in the courtroom this afternoon as the prosecution persisted in its efforts to establish that Kong Hee had full control over non-church entities such as Xtron and Serina Wee’s accounting firm, Advante Consulting.
Deputy public prosecutor Christopher Ong took the court through email evidence suggesting that the City Harvest Church founder gave input into matters regarding salary, bonus and manpower policies of CHC and the entities connected to it—including Xtron and Advante.
In particular, Ong showed the court an email exchange between Kong and CHC finance manager Sharon Tan discussing overall salary reviews for CHC and several other entities, including Xtron and Advante.
The prosecution suggested that it made no sense for Kong to be setting salary cost percentages if he truly had no control over the the separate entities.
Kong explained that it was merely a scenario planning exercise. “What this exercise is, if there’s a cataclysmic, catastrophic situation where all the entities fail, and City Harvest Church have to pick up the pieces and welcome back all these staff back to our fold, would we have the capacity to welcome them back into our staff, into our church organisation?” he said.
Ong replied, “Mr Kong, I put it to you that your explanations to these emails concerning salaries, bonuses, Xtron’s reimbursement and insurance policies, and now the aggregate salary percentage for these organisations … all these explanations are fabrications.
“I put it to you that all these emails really show that your control of Xtron and even Advante extended to deciding on issues of salary and manpower policies for Xtron and Advante,” Ong charged.
Along the same line of questioning, the prosecution pointed out another email exchange and asked Kong why he was involved in determining Xtron’s staff bonus payouts.
“These were all my former staff, and I was just concerned to make sure that they don’t feel short-changed for leaving the comfort of a stable nest and work in a small organisation and feel that they have the short end of the stick because they are trying to fulfill the church’s missions,” Kong said.
In addition to its claim that Xtron was a shell company, the prosecution also submitted that Advante Consulting was set up in order to create the “perception of separation” between CHC and Xtron.
Ong put it to Kong that Advante Consulting was just another part of the plan to hide the fact that the accused were channeling church monies to Xtron to fund the Crossover Project.
To that, Kong asked, “Why do we need Advante to do that if it’s true?”
Ong’s reply to the witness was, if Wee was seen to be handling both Xtron and CHC’s accounts, it would thus become clear that the two entities were related.
The prosecution also challenged Kong about a 2006 email showing US music producer Justin Herz asking for increased funds of US$250,000 for the Crossover Project. In it, Kong had tasked Sharon Tan, CHC’s finance manager, to perform the fund transfer.
Why was a CHC staff member tasked to send money to Herz? asked the prosecution.
“All the personalities involved are part of one spiritual family,” Kong explained. At the time, Wee was on maternity leave, thus Tan was asked to help.
He elaborated that as the chairman of the Festival of Praise (an annual prayer and worship event attended by Christians nationwide), his church—CHC—shared a common vision with the other participating churches such as Church of Singapore and River of Life Church, to encourage and foster unity among believers.
“That does not mean we lose our independence or that the whole FOP committee is a sham,” Kong said.
Court resumes at 9:30am on monday morning.
Kong Hee Explains The Mindset Of The “Spiritual Family”
“Your Honour, Xtron and City Harvest Church, we share a common vision and all the personalities involved are part of the same spiritual family. We are all brothers and sisters attending the same church. Serina was having maternity, and Serina, before she went for maternity, told me that, “Pastor, if you need anything, I’ve instructed Sharon to stand in for me.”
Your Honour, we are one family from the same church, as friends and brothers and sisters helping each other. Although we — although the church has its own board and Xtron has its own board…
Your Honour, if you would just indulge me, I’m the chairman of the Festival of Praise. I sit in a committee where different churches come together. We have a common vision, Festival of Praise was for worship, was for fostering unity, was for encouraging the body of Christ in the Christian community. We all help each other out. City Harvest Church could be helping Church of Singapore. Church of Singapore could be helping River of Life Church. But that didn’t mean that we lose our independence, or the whole FOP committee was a sham.
What’s wrong with helping one another, especially when one was… on maternity leave? At this point in time, Xtron didn’t have a accounts department.”
中文报道 – 城市丰收审讯：检方坚持 “控制”；被告维持“关心”之说法