Prosecution sought to establish that Xtron was under the control of the accused; Sharon Tan maintained that Xtron was an independent entity with its own directors who made their own decisions.
This morning session saw deputy public prosecutor Mavis Chionh trying to establish that Xtron was a company controlled by the defendants.
Focusing on semantics this morning, the DPP took issue with defendant Sharon Tan’s choice of words in her statement to the Commercial Affairs Department. In her statement, Sharon Tan had said, “…Choong Kar Weng and Koh Siow Ngea, the directors of Xtron still make decisions. They are consulted on major decisions concerning Xtron.” Chionh put it to Tan that based on her answer to CAD, the directors of Xtron were not making the major decisions concerning Xtron and that they were only consulted after major decisions were made.
Sharon Tan disagreed, saying that while her usage of the word “consulted” might not have been very accurate, she had meant that the directors were the ones making major decisions. Chionh argued that if that was so, why didn’t Tan make it plain to the CAD in her answer? Defense lawyer for Tan, senior counsel Kannan Ramesh, pointed out that his client’s answer already made it plain that the directors made the decisions. The judge also told the DPP that Sharon Tan had already given her answer and that the DPP should move on.
Not relenting, Chionh cited another item from the CAD statement. When asked, “Do the directors of Xtron take instructions from CHC’s board?” Sharon Tan’s reply to the CAD was, “I do not think so. I would think that the directors of Xtron have some say over the running of Xtron.” Pouncing on the word “some”, Chionh submitted that this was another indication that Xtron directors did not have full control over the company’s decisions. Sharon Tan admitted to the court that in her answer to CAD, she had used the words “some say” loosely, without knowing its consequences.
When Chionh suggested that her answers in court were not truthful, Tan disagreed and maintained that Xtron was an independent entity having its own directors who made their own decisions. As the court had consistently heard in all the defendants’ testimonies thus far, Sharon Tan reiterated that Xtron worked closely with CHC as the two entities shared the same objectives and a common vision.
Chionh also pulled out emails and BlackBerry messages in another attempt to establish her case. Amongst them was an email where Sharon Tan asked the church’s senior pastor, Kong Hee to confirm the church office’s intention to give out a half-month bonus and an inflation component to its staff. There were six other organizations included in the scheme and one of them was Xtron. In the email, the finance manager was asking Kong before she made an announcement to the staff. The DPP submitted that Xtron would not have made a decision until CHC made that salary announcement, and from that, she drew the conclusion that CHC controlled Xtron.
In her reply to the DPP, Sharon Tan explained the context of that email. The six other organizations would usually check with her on the direction that CHC was taking for the year-end disbursement of bonuses and salary adjustments, since the staff of these organizations worked very closely with CHC and preferred to follow CHC’s procedure as a guide, if their own accounts permitted.
The court also saw a BlackBerry message where co-defendant Tan Ye Peng gave suggestions on how to solve CHC’s budget problem. He said, “Can we solve the problem by…” and went on to set out suggestions for Xtron to lower the rental on the Singapore Expo halls and the management fees for CHC events.
The DPP charged that this message showed that Tan Ye Peng, a CHC pastor, had the power to make decisions for Xtron, and that this was therefore consistent with the accusation that he has control over the firm. Sharon Tan countered the DPP’s argument by explaining that Tan Ye Peng had simply offered a suggestion, which might later have led to a negotiation with Xtron.
Making reference to another BlackBerry message where Tan Ye Peng expressed his disagreement with Serina Wee’s budget planning for Xtron, Chionh again charged that this was an example of Tan Ye Peng’s control over Xtron. In the message, Tan Ye Peng had said, “Surely Xtron can adjust to suit CHC if CHC were to take RW…”. The DPP said this “clearly” showed that Tan Ye Peng had control over Xtron’s budget.
Sharon Tan disagreed with the DPP’s reading of the situation, explaining that Tan Ye Peng’s message was to get Xtron to work out a good rental rate for CHC. The finance manager added that negotiations for this rate actually happened following this BlackBerry chat.
Earlier this morning, the DPP took Sharon Tan through her relationship with the other accused. The court heard that Sharon Tan worked with Kong Hee on the church’s budget, fundraising and income projections, updating him on a monthly basis and more often during times when the budget was tight.
Her interactions with Chew Eng Han involved building fund cash flow, investment matters and communication with the church’s management board in investment matters.
Sharon Tan told the court that when she first took over Serina Wee’s role as finance manager, Wee would guide her in finance related matters and matters relating to audit and investments. After Wee had set up her own accounting company Advante, there was an interim period where she continued to help with the valuation of investments for audit purposes.
Court resumed at 2.30pm.
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