Since Chew Eng Han’s former lawyer senior counsel Michael Khoo raised the question of what actually constituted the First Information Report, senior counsel N Sreenivasan has been pursuing the matter. What was this “communication” from the COC that sparked off the CAD investigation into City Harvest Church?
Senior counsel for Tan Ye Peng, N Sreenivasan, made submissions on Sep 22 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.”
When the prosecution demurred 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.
The judge said, “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.
On Sep 30, it was heard that the prosecution provided the judge with 13 sets of documents, most of which was publicly available information. The judge deemed that one document—a deck of PowerPoint slides prepared by the COC—suitable.
“I’ve found that only A4, which is the PowerPoint presentation on the COC scope of inquiry, might be relevant for these proceedings. On that basis, I’ve directed that A4 should be made available to the defence,” said the judge.
Sreenivasan argued that the prosecution had not complied with the order. He pointed out that he had specifically made an application for the communication from COC referred to in the joint media release dated May 31, 2010, which could have been verbal—in which case, according to the Criminal Procedure Code, minutes of that communication must be made available to the defense. He also noted that Kevin Han, the investigating officer, was made the IO on Apr 30, 2010, but the investigations started May 31, 2010. Han had told the court he had received the information before he was made IO, which would date this communication sometime before Apr 30, 2010.
“The prosecution has given us everything but the subject matter of that request, and when they gave the file to your Honour, they had given your Honour everything but the subject matter of that request,” said the senior counsel.
The judge, after getting the prosecution to confirm that these were the only documents they had, decided that the document (A4) had been made available to the defense and there was no need for further points.