Tuesday, 27 January 2015

City Harvest Church "scam" case - latest update

In the continuing trial of the 6 City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders, Chew Eng Han (left), the former investment manager for CHC, took the stand today (26 Jan).

Pastor Kong Hee, Chew Eng Han and 4 other CHC leaders are accused of allegedly channelling $24 million of the church’s funds into sham bond investments to further the career of Pastor Kong’s wife, pop singer Sun Ho, between 2007 and 2008. 4 of them are also accused of later allegedly covering their tracks by devising transactions worth $26.6 million, known as “round-tripping”, to “redeem” the sham bonds.

Mr Chew is the 4th accused person to give evidence, and is the only one defending himself without a lawyer. Speaking in court, he said he broke away from the church in 2013 as he believed that his co-accused had chosen the “most convenient way” of defending themselves. He said that the 5 co-accused, including Pastor Kong, claimed they did not know about the legalities concerning the bonds, and had pointed to him as the brains behind these bonds instead.

“The only reason I broke away was that the story being cooked up was not the truth. Why is so much responsibility being placed on the investment manager?” he asked. “I’m not going to be united with a team that chooses the most convenient way to defend themselves.”
Mr Chew said that the “first wake-up call” came in May 2010, after the Commercial Affairs Department had questioned the 6 accused.

“When the fire broke out, I didn’t see any leadership, I didn’t see any shepherds. All I saw was fear,” he said. Mr Chew said that contrary to what his co-accused had testified earlier, Xtron Productions which is the artist management company for Sun Ho, was indeed controlled by the church, and that Pastor Kong and Deputy Senior Pastor Tan Ye Peng controlled the decisions made at Xtron. “Why would anyone divest so much money into a vehicle (Xtron) and not control it?” he asked. He added that such an arrangement was common in the financial world.

Xtron Productions had issued $24 million worth of alleged sham bonds to CHC to “invest” in. When Xtron could not redeem the bonds, another $26.6 million from CHC was allegedly injected into Xtron in a roundabout way to enable it to redeem the first $24 million bonds issued to CHC earlier. In fact, CHC was using its own money to “pay back” itself, the prosecution charged.

Kong claims Xtron is independent from CHC

Last year, during the trial in August, Pastor Kong claimed that Xtron Productions was independent from CHC. Pastor Kong then argued that as CHC’s founder and senior pastor, he was an “invisible patron” to many organisations and Xtron could be another instance. He added that he was not aware of the details inside Xtron. However, Pastor Kong admitted that he had kept CHC’s investment in Xtron from church members during a 2008 general meeting of the executive members. But he said this was to “protect the church”, since information given to the members “very quickly goes into the public domain”. If the public had known that Ms Ho’s career was being financed by the church, Pastor Kong said, she would be labelled as a gospel singer. This would affect the church’s mission work – which used her secular music career to evangelise (or so he claimed) – in countries like China that frowned on public preaching, he said. “I’m sure if I had told the members (earlier) they would gladly support it,” Kong said.

The trial continues.

Are PAP grassroot leaders above the law?

A video posted on the Internet is currently gaining momentum and starting to go viral:
It shows a member of the public angrily asking an LTA officer why he refused to “summon” or fine a number of cars that were parked illegally outside the Siglap South Community Centre along Palm Road at East Coast. Apparently, there was, at the time, an event held inside the community centre attended by a PAP MP.

The LTA enforcement officer told the member of the public that his superior had instructed him not to issue any summons for those illegally parked cars which purportedly belonged to PAP grassroots leaders.

Whether or not the illegally parked cars belonged to PAP grassroots leaders, from the video, the fact that they were illegally parked was obvious. There are double yellow lines along the side of Palm Road and the cars were parked smack on them.
Despite the LTA officer sheepishly admitting to the angry citizen that the cars were illegally parked, he did not issue any summonses because he said he was instructed not to.

Transcript of video:
Member of public: Ok, u call ur boss?
LTA officer: Yes called already.
Member of public: What did they say?
LTA officer: He said take picture to send to LTA.
Member of public: Ok so are you authorized to give them fine?
LTA officer: Yes, but now I inform to my boss already.
Member of public: No, are you authorized to give them fine?
LTA officer: Yes.
Member of public: Ok, you are authorized to give them fine right, is this illegal?
LTA officer: Yes.
Member of public: Are you going to give them fine?
LTA officer: Yes.
Member of public: Ok fine, go ahead.
LTA officer: But I follow my instruction lah, sir.
2nd member of public: You don’t mind I record this on video
Member of public: There is no instruction, there is no instruction, this is very simple, we gonna take this in record.
2nd member of public: We gonna send this to STOMP.
Member of public: I want to know what’s your job?
LTA officer: My job is issue summons lah, sir, but I informed already, this one MP.
Member of public: No no, no need to inform anybody, outside you see you all give fine?
LTA officer: Yes.
Member of public: Fine, carry on give the fine, please.
LTA officer: I inform already.
Member of public: What is there to inform? You mean outside you see illegal parking you inform your boss?
(Video shows a silver colored Nissan MPV illegally parked along double yellow lines.)
LTA officer: Yes I ask first, the situation I ask first, can issue or not.
Member of public: How come I park double yellow lines nobody ask, anything just fine, you know?
LTA officer: See the serious of the obstruction lah, sir.
Member of public: No, is not serious or not serious, what does the…
(Video ends.)
Do you think the owners of these cars, whoever they may be, are above the law?
When was the last time you were able to park on double yellow lines with impunity and were not summoned? And yet protected by LTA officers further?

We certainly need to learn from these privileged and powerful car owners how to infringe the law without being summoned.
What do you think?

Is Singapore really a democratic country?

Dinesh Dayani wrote an article in TRE about a comment made by Leung Chun Ying, Chief Executive of HongKong, ‘Democracy would see poorer people dominate Hong Kong vote.’
In his concluding paragraphs he wrote:
Did the last 10 years benefit all Singaporeans even though we collectively built or accepted the MBS & IR, saw our asset prices balloon and built a whole other financial district during the time? I’m not so sure.
What I am sure of however is that we are a democracy. It is in our power if we do not like the direction of where our country is headed.
Dinesh is sure that we are a democracy and we are in control of our own future unlike HongKong and the reason for the students’ street demonstration. In a way we are, but sometimes we wonder if we are a demoncracy. ‘It is in our power if we do not the direction of where our country is headed.’ Really?

Do we like the influx of foreigners that made Singaporeans a minority and can we do anything about it? And it is going to be worse with the 6.9m PWP. Can we do anything about it?
Can we do anything about the huge number of PMEs being replaced by foreigners? Yes, no, are we a democracy?
Can we do anything about our savings in the CPF? Do we have the power to do anything about it? Can we stop and rescind the CECA now that we know what it is?
There are many things that the people did not like, did not like the direction that they are heading. So? Can we do anything within our power to change them as a democracy? Or has our democracy been hijacked? Or we are not really a democracy and have no say in the direction our country is heading?
Can politicians democratically elected to serve the people, to listen to the people and represent their interest, turnaround and proudly declared they chose to be deaf frog, refused to listen to the people and did what they thought best? Can the politicians ignore the people that elected them to power and expect to be elected? Yes, in Singapore always re-elected. What kind of democracy is that?
Is our democracy a farce and everyone pretending that we are a democracy?

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean

* The writer blogs at mysingaporenews.blogspot.com.