The finance manager maintains the defense’s position that plans to redeem the church’s bond investments came after Baker Tilly auditor Sim Guan Seng told the accused parties to “clear the bonds off the books”, despite the prosecution’s accusation that this is untrue.
Did Baker Tilly auditor Sim Guan Seng explicitly tell City Harvest Church finance manager Sharon Tan that he wanted the Xtron bonds cleared from CHC’s books?
That appeared to be the sticking point this afternoon as the prosecution sought to establish that Tan had participated in various instances of scenario planning involving Xtron being paid advance rental by the church as a means to allow for the Xtron bonds to be redeemed.
“It is because you and your round-tripping co-accused realised that the bonds could not simply be written off that you came up, eventually, with the plan to convert the bond liability to advance rental liability, knowing that this would serve two purposes: firstly, to address the auditors’ concerns about the bonds, and, secondly, to buy you all time to find other ways of filling the hole in Xtron. Do you agree or disagree?” asked DPP Mavis Chionh.
Tan replied, “Your Honour, I disagree, because it is still a liability in Xtron’s book, which is payable to City Harvest, and there is no buying time because the numbers of years remain the same, your Honour.”
Tan also explained that the plan to redeem the bonds derived from Sim’s dislike of the church’s bond investments; she remembered “very clearly” from an audit meeting with Sim during which he had said to “clear the bonds off the books of CHC and keep it simple.”
According to Tan, Sim had explicitly stated to “clear the bond off CHC’s books” after the other attendees at the meeting, co-accused Tan Ye Peng and John Lam had left.
The DPP then pointed out that this “critical” point was not captured in the minutes of the meeting by accounts executive Lai Bao Ting. She also pointed out that Sim himself testified in January this year that he did not tell CHC to clear the bonds off the books.
The DPP went on to say that if the church’s bonds had truly been “blessed” by Baker Tilly managing partner Foong Daw Ching—whom Tan had testified would have the final say on audit issues—why did she not convey that to Sim when he had said to clear the bonds off CHC’s books?
Tan explained that what she knew of the bonds came from the other co-accused, who had been the ones communicating with Foong and Sim’s predecessor Tiang Yii. As such, when Sim expressed his dislike of the bonds, Tan had brought it up to Tan Ye Peng and Lam in an email, which, the prosecution then pointed out, did not expressly say “getting the bonds off the books”.
Tan elaborated, pointing to where she had written in the email, “He hopes to see this XPL issue being involved in this [financial year].”
“When it comes to the audit issue to be solved in this financial year, your Honour, the relationship between CHC and Xtron being the relatedness of it, whether was it due to the building or due to the Crossover, your Honour, it is something that cannot be solved within the financial year. So the only thing that can be solved is the bonds itself. That was the line of my explanation to Pastor Tan and John Lam, your Honour,” she explained.
The DPP asked, “Are you saying that you, as finance manager, thought that because Mr Sim has a personal dislike of the bonds, he has the power to ask you all to get the bonds off the books?”
Tan explained, “Your Honour, to say that Mr Sim has the power to ask all of us to get the bonds off the book is — in my own opinion, is going to one extreme … at that point in time all our mindset was to really fit what the auditors wants, which is exactly what I told Pastor Tan and John Lam in a follow-up email, that if it’s something that we should consider about.”
The prosecution thus charged that Tan was “not telling the truth” when she insisted that it was Sim who asked for the Xtron bonds to be cleared off CHC’s books. “You are telling this story in order to conceal the reason why you and your co-accused set about clearing the bonds off the books,” claimed the DPP.
“Your Honour, I disagree, because there is no reason for me to conceal the reason, and there were no benefits that I gain to have this whole redemption exercise,” Tan replied.
Court resumes at 9:30am tomorrow.
中文报道 – 城市收丰审讯：陈绍云证实审计师希望将债券从帐簿中清除