City Harvest Church’s finance manager Sharon Tan explains the importance of the church’s property search and what she knew of the Xtron bonds.
Sharon Tan, City Harvest Church’s finance manager took the stand this morning. Key things the court heard were that the property search for CHC reached a pivotal point in 2008 and that the Xtron bonds were drafted by lawyers and safeguarded by the investment committee, the church board, and the church trustees.
Tan faces seven charges of conspiracy to commit falsification of church accounts.
Right from the get go, Tan’s defense lawyer senior counsel Kannan Ramesh, established her level of trust in her co-defendants. Tan testified that she found Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng and Chew Eng Han to be trustworthy men and had no reasons to doubt them. Serina Wee was the person she had answer to since she had joined CHC as staff and had full reliance on Wee for technical advice for financial issues. This was the case even after Wee had resigned from her position as finance director of the church and Tan took over as finance manager.
Ramesh also established that Tan had no knowledge of bonds before the Xtron bonds were introduced to CHC. The minimal knowledge she had came from Chew’s explanation that a bond was like a loan, the court heard.
The senior counsel brought Tan through the minutes of an Extraordinary General Meeting held on Jul 7, 2007, during which Kong explained to the executive members the need for CHC to acquire a new worship premise.
Tan explained to the court that because of the growing congregation, CHC needed to find another piece of land to build a new worship premise almost immediately after it moved to its Jurong West premises. Because of its need to hold a large congregation, CHC could not use the land allocated for religious purposes, and would need to look for land that could build a commercial property.
Kong had told the members not to spread this news. Tan explained to the court that this was because it was a sensitive issue for the church, a religious organization, to acquire a commercial property, thus the need for confidentiality.
At that same meeting, Kong also spoke to the executive members of the church about making investments with the church’s building funds and appointing AMAC as the church’s fund manager. Chew had given a lengthy explanation on the risks involved in investments.
An email from Chew on Jul 24, 2007 showed that the co-defendants had discussed an agreement later signed between CHC and AMAC. At the same time, a lawyer from Drew and Napier had drafted the first Xtron bond subscription agreement. This, to Tan, showed that the lawyers had been engaged to structure the bonds and ensure its legality.
The court later saw email exchanges among the co-defendants from Oct 2007 to Feb 2008 discussing the possibility of investing more funds into Xtron bonds because of “very high yield”.
Tan testified that these exchanges convinced her that the Xtron bonds were doing very well and Chew was doing a good job as fund manager.
She also had assurance that the bonds were safeguarded by the church trustees, and were reviewed by the investment committee. In a church management board meeting held on Mar 8, 2008, a board member, Nicholas Goh, had also requested for Chew to give the management board a monthly update on the investments. Tan agreed with her defense lawyer that this gave her further assurance that the investments were in good hands.
In that board meeting, the management board also approved the appointment of senior counsel Jimmy Yim as the church’s advisor. Tan explained that Yim’s role was to give the church leadership proper legal advice pertaining the investments and issues pertaining the property search. She also agreed with Ramesh that the appointment of Yim was driven by the importance of the property search at that time.
Court resumed at 2.30pm.
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