City Harvest Church leaders’ trial finally drawing to a close
One of S'pore's longest criminal trials draws to close as witness testimonies end
After 137 days stretching over two years, the City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders' trial is finally drawing to a close.
Yesterday, the final witness was called to the stand as the accused wrapped up the defence.
This brings the end of witnesses' testimonies for the trial, which is already one of the longest-running criminal trials here.
The defence will prepare their closing submissions, which they are expected to present to the court on Sept 10 and 11.
Here is a recap of the trial so far, in numbers:
$50.6m was allegedly misused from the church's building fund.
First, $24 million was allegedly channelled into two "shell companies" - Xtron Productions and glass manufacturer Firna - to fund the music career of singer-pastor Ho Yeow Sun.
Then, $26.6 million was allegedly misused in a round-tripping exercise to cover up the initial amount.
137 days - that's how long the trial, which started in May 2013, has gone on for.
During the trial, prosecutors had sought to show how Xtron and Firna directors simply did the accused's bidding.
The defence argued that the transactions were legitimate, with the accused acting "in good faith" on the advice of lawyers and auditors.
23 witnesses were called to the stand. They are the six accused, 14 prosecution witnesses and three defence witnesses, including Ms Ho, who is the central figure in the case.
10 charges - the maximum number faced by some of the accused.
Chew, Tan Ye Peng and Wee each have six counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and four counts of falsifying documents against them.
Sharon Tan was charged with three counts of CBT and also faces four counts of falsifying documents.
Lam and Kong have been charged with three counts of CBT.
1,505 documents were seized and admitted to the court as evidence for the trial. They include BlackBerry messages and e-mails dating back more than 10 years. The court was also presented with church meeting minutes and spreadsheets detailing Xtron's and CHC's finances.
5 Mandarin albums were released by Ms Ho between 2002 and 2007. Her English album has yet to be released.
8 prosecutors have been handling the case. They include Chief Prosecutor Mavis Chionh, Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong and Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng.
We backed project, says ex-member
He came to know about the Xtron and Firna bonds at a church meeting only in 2010 - at least two years late - but took no issue with being kept in the dark.
He also said he was very proud of Ms Ho Yeow Sun's singing success and willingly bought many copies of her albums despite not being able to understand Mandarin.
Mr Jean Jacques Lavigne, a former church member of City Harvest Church (CHC), was the last witness to be called by former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han to take the stand yesterday.
Mr Lavigne, who runs his own business in the superyacht industry, told the court that he joined CHC in 1998 and became a cell group leader.
Like Chew, Mr Lavigne left the church in 2013. But while he was still there, he said he and other members had supported and authorised the church board to carry out the Crossover Project in whatever way best for the community.
He told the court that he was the one who drafted a petition against the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) investigation in May 2012, two years after officers began doing so.
He described how on one Sunday that month, he and a few others gathered about 200 signatures from church members. But they were stopped by CHC deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng.
Tan's lawyer, Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, later said that his client had been warned by CAD against causing a "ground swell".
Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong then pointed out that one of the signatures belonged to former CHC finance manager Serina Wee, who was then being investigated.
But Mr Lavigne said they did not know who she was at that time. Wee was charged later that year with criminal breach of trust and falsifying documents.
When asked by Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon on why he quit the church, Mr Lavigne said he had to wait and see how the case turned out, but after he got a phone call from the church informing him that he had been replaced as a cell group leader, he decided not to go back.