Whether Xtron was controlled by City Harvest Church has been an on-going conundrum even before investigations into the case started, Chew Eng Han claimed.
One of the main topics that has surfaced with every new witness called to the stand in the City Harvest trial so far has been the relationship between CHC and Xtron. The prosecution’s case is that Xtron was merely a shell company controlled by the accused CHC parties in order to illegally funnel church money out into the Crossover Project.
Xtron was set up for the church, for good purposes—either to obtain a commercial property or to manage the Crossover Project, said Chew Eng Han in his cross-examination by John Lam’s lawyer Kenneth Tan today.
As such, while there was “no written trust deed or instrument,” to compel Xtron’s directors to do as CHC’s senior pastor Kong Hee instructed, there was an “invisible one” based on the spiritual relationship between Kong and the director. Thus, should the latter one day turn “renegade” and not do what CHC wanted, he would be asked to step down from Xtron.
In fact, it was a conundrum that had surfaced even before the case broke out, added Chew. Nobody could really pinpoint the exact nature of the relationship between the two companies.
“The relationship with Xtron and CHC is out of this world, out of the commercial world, for the simple reason that this is not just a commercial project; it is a spiritual project and it’s a spiritual organisation,” explained Chew.
Chew ended his examination-in-chief earlier today before being cross-examined by Tan. The court heard his account of how despite suffering multiple personal setbacks, Chew had put his “heart and soul” into serving the church.
In seeking to establish his frame of mind during the period in which he was allegedly in conspiracy with the other five accused, Chew took the court through a series of challenges he faced starting 2006.
Reading from his spiritual journal written in Feb 2009, the court heard that Chew and his family had grappled with serious medical conditions afflicting himself, his wife and his daughter before the sub-prime crisis tanked his fund management company and sent him into depression. It was at one of his lowest points that the first Xtron bond agreement was entered into, in July 2007.
“My mind went into despair, confusion, anxiety, depression, hopelessness. Each time I just turned to two things – prayer and the word … I would tell myself every day that God loved me and cared for me, and was working all things for my good.”
As such, he tried his best to continue serving, whether in leading the Business Breakthrough Group, obtaining a property for the church, or helping out in the Crossover Project.
“Your Honour, all these years, 2007, 2008, 2009, I never thought I was in a conspiracy. I thought God was using me. When I did the land and when I did the Crossover, it gave me a sense of purpose. It reminded me that God was still using me for his Kingdom. I never had bad intentions, to cause loss to the church.”
Chew also told the court that he was even willing to help bear the burden of the Crossover Project by indemnifying the personal guarantee made by Wahju Hanafi on the Xtron bond investments. That was why he had signed a back-to-back guarantee, along with Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng and former Xtron director Koh Siew Ngea, at the request of Hanafi.
In no way were the guarantees a way to make the bonds “look better” as alleged by the prosecution, Chew explained. There was no need to “whitewash” the bonds because at the time the bond agreement was signed, there was no doubt that Xtron would be able to redeem the bonds.
This morning, Chew sought to show that the ARLA was primarily to empower Xtron to help City Harvest Church source for its new worship premise, Chew ploughed through a chain of emails that document the timeline of events leading up to the ARLA this morning. The court heard saw how, after he lost the bid for Suntec Convention, Chew started negotiations for other properties like the Singapore Flyer, the Sports Hub, the Old Hollywood Theatre at Tanjong Katong and the site of the old Capitol Theatre. By the time he got lawyer Christina Ng to draft the ARLA in September 2009, he was sure that there was a 90 percent chance of closing at least one of the properties. This is contrary to auditor Sim Guan Seng’s testimony to the court that there was no real property behind the ARLA, Chew pointed out.
Chew emphasized that the ARLA was never a shady transaction; it was to be made known to CHC’s board right from the beginning. He also produced Blackberry messages that showed him replying to Sharon Tan that if the auditors were to ask about the ARLA, just tell them the whole story because they had a good reason for doing it. He reiterated that the ARLA was for Xtron to be financially equipped to go out and negotiate with bankers, property owners and potential joint venture partners. The sum of money was not only for securing the property but also the work to be done before. The court also heard that one of the clauses in the ARLA clearly stated that Xtron did not have the premise on hand but was searching for the ideal property.
Addressing the falsification charges that surround the two tranches of Special Opportunity Fund used to redeem the Firna bonds, Chew explained that it was a restructuring of investments. CHC started with an investment in Firna and ended up with an investment in AMAC; there was no gain and no loss, he said. Chew told the court that he could not understand how this constituted a falsification of accounts. Chew also told the court that at the end of the whole redemption exercise — redemption of the Firna bonds as well as the contra of Xtron bonds against the ARLA — the net effect was in CHC’s investment assets, there was no material change in CHC books; in fact, CHC earned a return of 5.5 percent.
Cross-examination of Chew Eng Han continues tomorrow at 9.30am.
中文报道 – 城市丰收审讯：思创与CHC的关系“超脱这世界”