Prosecution started its cross-examination of finance manager Sharon Tan by examining what was recorded in the CHC board meeting minutes.
Deputy public prosecutor Mavis Chionh began her cross-examination of defendant Sharon Tan before the lunch break today. She questioned Tan on how City Harvest Church’s management board meeting minutes were recorded and what those minutes contained.
Sharon Tan told the court that she would only capture key points of the board meeting and important decisions and approvals that were made by the board. She added later that the minutes would also contain other information on general church matters.
The DPP pressed further and asked what criteria the defendant applied to assess the importance of a particular piece of information, Sharon Tan gave the example of how she did not record CHC board’s support to purchase the Riverwalk unit because it was a decision that Xtron’s directors had to make.
Chionh pointed out that the board meeting minutes were important because they were part of the documents the auditors relied on for the statutory audit field work. She added that that the information in the board meeting minutes should be accurate and transparent because it has to be given to auditors.
Sharon Tan agreed but qualified that the auditors also had access to both CHC and Xtron books and accounts; the audit firm’s then managing director, Foong Daw Ching would also have received information from the church leaders.
The DPP sought to establish that the minutes of the board meetings and investment committee meetings were not shown to public or executive members. She brought up what Sharon Tan had said in her examination-in-chief, that it was the public that needed to see Xtron as a separate entity from CHC in order for Xtron to procure a new building for the church, hence issues that required Xtron director to make decisions on were not recorded in the board meeting minutes. Why then was there a need to not minute down decisions from Xtron, Chionh asked. How would it result in the public having the impression that Xtron was not separate from the church?
Sharon Tan explained that the board meeting minutes could be accessed by junior staff members, risking an unintentional leak of information about Xtron’s position and jeopardizing its ability to secure a new building.
When pressed by the DPP, Sharon Tan said that it was hard for her to frame a “general position” on which decisions from Xtron were or were not recorded—it depended on what the discussion was about, she said.
The DPP then suggested that Sharon Tan was lying in her evidence and was now shifting her position.
Sharon Tan disagreed and invited the DPP to reference a specific discussion so that she could explain why that piece of information was or was not included in the minutes.
“I have been truthful in my EIC and my evidence given in court,” she stated.
Earlier in this morning, the last of the defense lawyers, senior counsel for Serina Wee Andre Maniam conducted his cross-examination of Sharon Tan.
He established through Sharon Tan’s testimony that his client was not present in any of the CHC meetings with the auditors nor was she present at any CHC board meetings mentioned in court previously.
Sharon Tan also agreed with him that the role she played in the bond redemption plan was that of facilitator, and that Wee played the same role on the Xtron side.
Court resumed at 2.30pm.
What Communication From The COC Sparked Off The CAD Investigation?
Senior counsel for Tan Ye Peng, N Sreenivasan, made submissions this morning on his application for the Commissioner of Charities document or piece of communication that sparked off the Commercial Affairs Department investigation into City Harvest Church.
Citing a CAD press release that read, “the COC received complaints of misuse of church funds and informed the CAD when it assessed that some of these transactions needed to be investigated,” Sreenivasan pointed out this communication from the COC to the CAD that sparked off the investigation into CHC would constitute the First Information Report.
Earlier this tranche, the prosecution had attempted to introduce as evidence fund manager Chew Eng Han’s voluntary statement to the COC, which was apparently part of the COC report of 2013. The prosecution showed a notice to produce in the middle of this year—a point Sreenivasan refuted, saying that the prosecution should obtain such information “in a proper way” and that disclosure should be made to the defense.
The senior counsel told the court, “They have it. They have got it in the course of investigations. It’s relevant because they’ve used it in cross-examination. Hand it over.”
What the prosecution so far has said is that what is in the CAD’s possession is not in the prosecution’s possession. Sreenivasan pointed out that it is well known that the CAD investigating officer is at the “beck and call of the DPP”.
The judge told Sreenivasan he was “quite sympathetic” to the position the defense lawyer was in as far as the COC report was concerned. He clarified that he did not think Sreenivasan was on a “fishing expedition” as the prosecution had earlier accused. When it’s a fishing expedition, the judge noted, the applicant cannot even identify the document he is looking for, but in this case, Sreenivasan is pointing to a specific piece of evidence that has been announced “to the world at large” in a press release. The judge also suggested that Sreenivasan make his submission under section 235 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
When asked about the first information document, DPP Mavis Chionh issued the challenge to Sreenivasan to show it was “necessary and desirable” for the prosecution to produce the communication between COC and CAD, as per section 235.
It was the judge who eventually drew this conclusion: “I take this starting position. The report itself to the CAD, on the prima facie basis, at least, appears to be relevant to these proceedings. And if that is the case, then it is not a long stretch for Mr Sreeni then to contend that it is either necessary or desirable for the document to be produced.”
The judge ordered the prosecution to ask the investigating officer, Kevin Han, if he has a copy of this document. “I’m taking this approach because I think there’s a likelihood that the IO actually does have a copy,” said the judge.
The court gave the prosecution up to next Monday to query Han on this, and if Han does not have the document, the prosecution will ask the Commissioner of Charities for it.
中文报道 – 城市丰收审讯：CHC董事会会议记录内容遭质疑