CHC trial judge: Church leaders unrealistic about Sun Ho's success
All six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders have been convicted of criminal breach of trust or falsifying accounts involving $50 million.
Another church leader did not leave court unscathed. Ho Yeow Sun, who is also known as Sun Ho, took some blows to her reputation as a performer.
The State Court judge who returned the guilty verdict on all six leaders said they had unrealistic expectations of how well Ho, 43, would do in her music career.
Judge See Kee Oon said in his oral judgment in court on Wednesday (Oct 21):
"I am unable to see how there can be any genuine or honest grounds for their claims that they expected far higher sales for her planned US album well in excess of the projection of 200,000 units."
During the trial, it emerged that the leaders had projected to sell 1.5 million copies of Ho’s English album and earn $10.5 million from it.
The judge termed it "no more than an optimistic hope" and added: "It was definitely not a realistic expectation."
"I am unconvinced that they could have had a genuine belief in Sun Ho’s prospects of success for the US Crossover given their consciousness that much of her earlier success was contrived and contributed to by CHC itself."
The judge added that one of the leaders, Serina Wee, readily conceded that Ho’s Asian Crossover albums all made losses. Other church leaders also knew that CHC was involved in propping up her Mandarin album sales.
Two of Ho's Mandarin albums made losses of almost $1 million.
The church's founding pastor and Ho's husband, Kong Hee, had explained over the course of a 140-day trial that he wanted to avoid any misconception that his wife's music career was "not real" and that the church was still using its money to promote her secular career.
Judge See pointed out that it was true that Ho's perceived success was inflated and the church had to "rely heavily on sponsorship from CHC member or supporters to help prop up her album sales and promote her career".
And when these sources of financial support which did not come directly from the church were insufficient, the leaders "had to come up with other means".
So, in 2007, the leaders planned to use Xtron as its vehicle to fund Ho's Crossover project.
The idea was to "borrow" money from the church's building fund by investing it into Xtron, a music production firm helmed by several church leaders.
The leaders were "hoping that the funds would somehow find their way back to CHC at some unspecified future point", the judge added.
The judge said the investment in Xtron was not for financial returns, but to fund the Crossover project.
"The prospect of any financial return was a secondary consideration at best and even then I do not accept that they genuinely believed that the sale of Sun Ho’s music albums would generate sufficient profit for CHC to enjoy financial return."
In all, the church leaders used $24 million of the church's money to finance Ho's singing career and another $26.6 million to cover up the initial amount.