Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Setting The Record Straight on Deluded Christianity

Earlier today, Pastor Bob Rodgers, the pastor of Evangel World Prayer Center in Louisville wrote an article titled "Setting The Record Straight on David Yonggi Cho" in Charisma News' Opinion section. Pastor Bob is the current president of Church Growth International Americas, the ministry founded by Pastor Yonggi Cho, who was recently convicted of criminal charges of tax evasion and breach of trust by the Korean court and sentenced to 3-years in jail, but jail term was changed to 5-year suspension due to age and mitigating factors.

In his article, he tried to imply that the news that shook the world is nothing more than a "slant of some of the media reports", and wanted "certain details of the situation to be made known". While I believe his personal experience of knowing him the past 40 years, and being in the court proceedings, I do think that the accusation of the "media slant" is trying a tad too hard to justify the failure of the highly respected church leader. Besides, as the president of CGI Americas, his position is also conflicted to give such endorsement.

What's more interesting to note was that the article was shared and re-shared all over social media as some valid explanation to water down the impact of the court sentence that the elder Cho was not entirely at fault - "he trusted his elders and son and didn’t check and read the thousands of pages of paperwork, which was prepared for him to sign. Because Cho relied upon the direction of his choice elders and son, he signed the papers".

Is that really the case? I'll share my opinion of why I feel so wrong about the slant contained in this article:

Blaming The Prodigal Son

"Cho has three sons. The second and third sons are very productive and work in church-related ministries. His eldest son has been the prodigal. He has been married four times and has been involved in sexual scandals with national personalities. In addition, he has served prison time for investment scams and embezzlement. His scandalized life has been an embarrassment to his family and the church.

Twelve years ago, this son purposely defrauded the church in excess of $12 million in a stock-related scheme. Cho testified that he trusted his elders and son and didn’t check and read the thousands of pages of paperwork, which was prepared for him to sign. Because Cho relied upon the direction of his choice elders and son, he signed the papers. He never received any monies from the transaction."

Pastor Bob, you can say that the eldest son hoodwinked the elder Cho to sign certain documents, but you cannot deny the intention of the elder Cho to cover up the deed deliberately. In fact, when confronted, he denied it and instead, claimed that it was a "a smear campaign by a very small group of people in his church" and that "those who filed the complaint will have to take responsibility accordingly" (ST, 22 Sep 2011)

"Ha Sang-ok , who was part of the group for nearly two decades, admits to being involved in some fraud : " In the last 14 years I have seen and done bad things. I tried to convince the pastor to stop, but he paid no attention. His behavior is not that of a Christian, but like that of a guru of a sect". (source)

"First, they claim that Cho returned only 64.3 billion won (US$60.2 million) of the 163.3 billion won (US$152.9 million) he borrowed from the church while building the CCMM Building between 1992 and 1998, when he was chairman of the church‘s Mission Society. The remaining 99 billion won (US$92.7 million), they say, was never returned.

It is also being claimed that Cho’s third son Seung-jae’s International Club Management Group bought three floors of the building from the church for 29.5 billion won (US$27.6 million) and sold them back three years later for 37.2 billion won (US$34.8 million) - pocketing the difference of 7.7 billion won (US$7.2 million).

They also claimed that David Cho’s wife Kim Sung-hae, president of Hansei University, has yet to account for 10.5 billion won (US$9.8 million) paid by the church as support for Bethesda Christian University, an institution she runs in the US. The elders also view US real estate purchased by the university for around US$15 million as having been bought with church money." (Source)

Not to mention, being man-handled by an elder with a choke-hold and threatened for speaking up:

He never took the lead in any of the crimes

"Third, the presiding judge said, “The court considered that even though Pastor Cho had the final say in the church, he never took the lead in any of the crimes, including tax evasion, committed on the suggestion of the accounting firm.”"

It was quite obvious for a man of his stature and power, that surely he must have given some instructions in order to make certain things happen:

"David Cho received a report from a general manager at Yoido Full Gospel Church surnamed Kim that said, “If the elders and believers find out that the church is purchasing I-Service stock at the high price of 86,984 won per share, stock which the church has absolutely no need for, there could be a huge uproar.” Nevertheless, the pastor said, “We have no choice, since Hee-jun is in a difficult situation right now,” directing that the matter be dealt with as quietly as possible to avoid causing any trouble in the church. In other words, David Cho was receiving reports about and giving orders concerning the purchase of the stock that resulted in a loss for the church." (source)

The Prodigal Son Instigated the Crime

"The court also considered Cho’s life journey as a religious leader and his long-term contribution to social welfare as mitigating circumstances on his behalf. The court ruled that his son, Cho Hee-Jun, was the instigator of the crime related to the purchase of the shares of 1-Service stock."

"Although the judge believes that Cho should be severely punished for committing breach of trust, especially for a person of his status in society, he gave a light sentence on Cho's tax evasion in consideration of Cho's long-term contributions to the society, the Yonghap News reported." (source)

Fact is, he gave the green light. Period.

For all the justifications that we can give to the religious leader, let's not forget that he had a choice - which is to silently use church funds to buy his son's shares at a high price in order to save his son, or let the judicial system and God work its course - to pay the price, and give his son the chance of a brand new life. Unfortunately, he chose the former.

To all pastors out there, instead of justifying why his deeds are "acceptable" and/or "circumstantial", why not reflect on what the bible says about the requirements to be a good Christian elder/leader? Forgotten Paul's instruction to Timothy?

Do we need a court conviction to wake up and expose a wayward Christian leader? Are we incapable of proper self-governance and to live a life above and beyond reproach, as a religious leader? Is it time we ought to be conducting an internal audit of our leadership and testimony, before we even mercilessly judge the outside world of their sins, while slamming Christians who speak up against abuse of authority and wrong-doings in Church with the "do not judge" tagline? Let's not forget the bible tells us not to judge the world, but to judge ourselves, those inside the church - so that they will not be a disgrace to the world and bring shame to the name of God - that the church cannot even manage it's own affairs. 

The Reflection of Pastor Cho - After the Sentence

Pastor Cho on Sunday addresed his congregation that "through "this suffering" he had learned that "an individual shouldn't possess anything."

"Besides health, status, fame, authority, money... these are all matters that are outside the body and unworthy of any pursuit," Pastor David Yonggi Cho told Yoido Full Gospel Church, in Seoul, South Korea. Cho added that he hopes that God forgives him for his actions.

Timely reflection, or a face-saving moment? Not forgetting what happens 3 years before the sentence:

when confronted, he denied it and instead, claimed that it was a "a smear campaign by a very small group of people in his church" and that "those who filed the complaint will have to take responsibility accordingly" (ST, 22 Sep 2011)

Is this another media slant, Pastor Bob?

We are seeing pastors today scooting around in private jet, luxurious homes, extravagant lifestyle - while members are struggling hand-to-mouth, the money collected while many parts of the world people go hungry, lack education, clean water, etc. What would Jesus Do? What would you do?

While I acknowledge that nobody is perfect and all make mistakes, there are some mistakes the everyday Christian who makes a honest living and simply love their pastors by trusting and giving them their best will never commit - unlike what the mega-pastor attempts - threaten the minority, bully the weak, manipulate the generous, etc. They may lie about how they spent their last Christmas because they feel bad about not giving their family the best, having giving much of their finances to the church, but they will not lie like many of the pastors do. 

Jesus cursed the fig tree. What would you do, Pastor Bob?

Accept the sentence. A mistake is made. Deal with it. Don't justify. It's sick.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Statement By Pastor Chang Mao Song (張茂松) Regarding Pastor Yonggi Cho's Case

A Taiwanese Megachurch, Pastor Chang Mao Song (張茂松) issued a statement regarding Pastor Yonggi Cho's case. An  encouraging statement and timely reminder, but one of the salient points which baffles me is this:


Translated, to the following:

During cross examination, some of the elders had already passed away, some had left their position, some claimed they forgot. There were still more than one thousand elders who said “Pastor Cho is innocent”. They also asked the judge why he does not believe “the testimonial of more than one thousand elders, but choose to believe the testimonial of 30”

Again, pointing to my earlier post about following the majority crowd instead of being critically objective about what one sees. Group think does have a major role to play in religion.

Here's the statement in its original language which is reproduced below (source):

And here's the Not-Under-The-Table translation of the statement:

Regarding the case of Pastor Yonngi Cho, Pastor Chang Mao Song made the following clarification:
Many have read the media report anout Pastor Cho’s case. In the face of the judicial decision, we have no power to say further. But, we cannot forget that for many years, Pastor Cho had been a blessing to Taiwanese churches through his blessings and teachings.

Without doubt, he is out spiritual elder and support – without his guidance, the church will not be where it is today. We cannot erase what Pastor Cho has done for Taiwanese churches – he has been a great help and blessing.

The Pastor Cho I know has been leading a simple life. He is a giving person and has given his own material possession to help those in need. When this case happened, we need to understand the truth is not just what the media reported. We cannot understand the reason behind what is happening, but so remember his good and blessing to us – do not judge him based on what his son had done.

When I learned about Pastor Cho’s criminal case late last year, I went to find out from different sources. In January this year, Elder Lin Yi Zhou came to visit me in Taiwan and we chatted for more than two hours, to explain the entire case. Pastor Lee Yong Xun also visited me in February to discuss Pastor Cho’s case.

Below is my understanding about this case:
1) Pastor Cho’s son submitted a request more than 10 years ago, to ask the church to invest in a cleaning company (not the newspaper, Kook Min Ip Po) – and this cleaning company is the contractor in maintain the cleanliness of the church.

2) The elders approved this investment, but at a rate much higher than the market value

3) In the end they asked Pastor Cho to stamp and approve. When this case erupted, Pastor Cho naturally faced misunderstanding and criminal justice:

a) He openly apologized to the congregation by going on his knees. 3 years ago, some elders who were unhappy with Pastor Cho reported this matter to the authorities. At that time, Pastor Cho knelt and apologized to the congregation in public, during a weekend service. He acknowledged his mistake, and for not bearing a good testimony of the family, resulting in the hurt caused to the church.

b) He calmly faced the judicial. During cross examination, some of the elders had 
already passed away, some had left their position, some claimed they forgot. There were still than one thousand elders who said “Pastor Cho is innocent”. They also asked the judge why he does not believe “the testimonial of more than one thousand elders, but choose to believe the testimonial of 30”

c) The judge told Pastor Cho, “I know this case is not your problem, you only have to push to your son and the case will be closed”. But Pastor Cho said, “my son had not been faithful and done wrong to me, but I cannot do that to my own son”

d) The stand of Yoido Full Gospel Church remains fully supportive of Pastor Cho, and fully strive to maintain Pastor Cho’s innocence.

We are saddened that such incidents had happened, especially to a man who had been a faithful servant over the past sixty years. Due to his dedication to his ministry, he neglected the care towards his family which resulted in this “good for nothing” (不成才) son who not just implicated him personally, but also implicated the entire church. Pastor Cho did not manage this incident very well – as the in-charge of the church, he has gate-keeping responsibilities, especially when it comes to investing in his own son’s company, he should have exercised caution and suspicion.

Faced with this incident, this is our reflection and attitude:

1) Continue to intercede for our spiritual elder and his church to quickly get out of this storm, and stand up once again for the Lord! This church has once been a blessing to churches all around the world – hopefully they can renew their fire and walk in a renewed testimony!!

2) We must be on guard ourselves, especially pastoral leaders of big churches, to shepherd our own family is our number 1 priority. To live with a restrained demeanor and not be a bad testimony!!

3) Those in high position and power must be increasingly humble and restrict their own power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely!! We must exercise caution, and on a daily basis, to pray, to reflect, to worship. Be careful that we ourselves might be the next one to fall.

4) The church world is facing many problems, we must pray more, support more, love one another more. Regarding pastors embroiled in a storm, do not make things worse for them. Do not make one another enemy. Let us unite our strength to deal with enemy outside!!

5) We need to stand more boldly for the Lord to build a strong and effective church.

The original statement (source):





一、 趙牧師的大兒子十多年前向長老們提出要求,要教會投資他的清潔公司(不是國民日報),而這個公司承包教會的清潔工作。
二、 經過長老會議通過此投資案,但是行情高出市價很多。
三、 最後他們要求趙牧師蓋章放行!!
一、 他公開向會眾下跪道歉
二、 坦然面對司法
三、 法官曾告訴趙牧師「我們知道這件事情不是你的問題,你只要推給你兒子,責任就了了。」但是趙牧師說「我的兒子可以對我不義,但是我不能對我的兒子不義。」
四、 純福音教會的立場,仍然是全力的支持趙牧師。極力維護趙牧師的清白!!

一、 繼續迫切為我們屬靈長輩守望與代禱,並且為純福音教會禱告,盡快脫離風暴,重新為主站立!!這個教會的見證曾經幫助全世界的教會,希望他們能浴火重生!!走出一個新的見證!!
二、 我們自己要謹慎,特別是大教會的牧者,牧養自己的家人,是我們的第一要務!!約束家人言行舉止,不可沒有見證!!
三、 位高權重者,一定要愈發的謙卑、愈發的簡樸、愈發限制自己的權柄。權力使人腐化,絕對的權力,會使人絕對的腐化!!我們要謹慎如臨深淵、如履薄冰,誡慎恐懼!!也要天天禱告、天天省察、天天俯伏敬拜!!小心下一個跌倒的人就可能是我們自己!!
四、 教會界正面對多事之秋,需要更多的禱告、更多的支持、更多的彼此相愛,對於在風暴中的牧者,不要落井下石! 不要彼此為敵!!讓我們集中力量對付外面的敵人!!
五、 我們需要更勇敢的為主站立,努力傳福音,建立一個強而有力的教會。


Friday, 21 February 2014

UPDATED 23/2/14: Lessons From the Sentencing of 2 Cho's - How Christian Leaders Justify Responsibilities

The news broke today in a shocking manner with the following headlines:

3) "Pastor gets suspended prison term for massive embezzlement" (The Yonhap News Agency)

Dr Yonggi Cho, whom Pastor Kong Hee address to be his "Spiritual Father" and "Senior Pastor" is sentenced to 3-years in jail with 5-year suspension. This means that the jail term is deferred by 5-years and he will go to jail to serve sentence if is found to further misbehave during this 5-year term. It is still a jail sentence.

The court ruled that Dr Cho is guility of the following charges: (1) Tax evasion and (2) causing approximately 13 billion won (US$12 million) worth of losses to Yoido Full Gospel Church by instructing his church officials to buy stocks privately owned by his eldest son priced at 4x higher than market value in 2002. 

The criminal activity would have been impossible without the approval of Pastor Cho, who had ultimate decision-making authority,” the court ruled. “By condoning the documents that were being written while he was the head of the church, he was largely responsible for these crimes.” - The Hankyoreh

Earlier, in a Straits Times coverage of the news when investigations first began into the Korean Mega-pastor, Dr Cho had denied any wrong-doing, and dismissed the allegations as "a smear campaign by a very small group of people in his church" and that "those who filed the complaint will have to take responsibility accordingly" (ST, 22 Sep 2011)

When this article was first published, City Harvest Church also issued a statement regarding this matter (

It is not the intention of this blog to judge a great man like Dr Yonggi Cho, who over the past decades had contributed greatly to the growth of Christianity and helped many people. We have our imperfections and do make mistakes, and do eventually pay the price for it. 

However, the patterns of denial adopted up to the point of conviction finds close resemblances to what was seen in the "CHC Trial":

1) Blame Shifting

"While delivering the three-year prison term for the former newspaper chairman, the judge rebuked the younger Cho for attempting to shift the responsibility for his unethical business practices onto his father and other senior church members." (source)

Church Growth International Korea, the ministry founded by Dr Cho (independent and separate entity from Yoido Full Gospel Church) issued a statement to their Board Members claiming that the Korean judge, Hon. Yongtun Cho said that:

"The court considered that even though Pastor Cho had the final say in the church, he never took the lead in any of the crimes including tax evasion committed on the suggestion of the accounting firm." (source)

"During the investigation, prosecutors also acquired evidence of tax evasion by David Cho. In 2004, when the Seoul regional tax office judged that this stock sale was a gift and ordered that 10.3 billion won (US$9.48 million) of taxes be paid, David Cho enlisted the aid of an accountant and submitted falsified documents to the tax office to disguise the transaction as a normal stock trade, not as a gift, prosecutors confirmed. He is suspected of using this means to only pay 4 billion won (US$3.68 million) in taxes, evading 6 billion won." (source)

While he may not be the mastermind, he was unfortunately convicted because he allowed it to happen anyway - apparently rubber stamped whatever his son handed him. The key here is that as a leader, you cannot just claim ignorance and hope to get away. Tax evasion charges aside, he unfortunately gave instruction to siphon the money and ordered the stock purchase - resulting in the inevitable CBT charge which is even more damning and inexcusable - impossible to blame shift this.

Is it true that as long as the fault can be pushed away to another party, it would be "all clear" for the accused? Will it change the mindset of logical thinking adults? Or is it done in an attempt to continue to mislead the unknowing members? Throughout the CHC Trial, we have seen the blame pushed to the auditors, the CAD Investigating Officer and other parties including the media (accused to be bias) - me thinks it's definitely not true, considering the coverage they gave Serina Wee. News is a business to sell more after all.

The CityNews Article ( was plastered on top of the City Harvest Church website (above the "Special Notices" tab). For the blame on the other parties, just refer to the CityNewsSG articles on their website, and my earlier blog articles. We need to be mindful that such articles coming from a church whose leaders are embroiled in a criminal charge do stir emotions and sentiments among the membership as well as members of the public, depending on where you look at it.

2) Threat and Warning

Such uses were probably aimed to threaten people who speak up with defamation lawsuits? Will this work? Considering the first line of defense against any form of defamation is the reporting of verifiable facts/truth, the threat would also fall on deaf grounds, no?

"those who filed the complaint will have to take responsibility accordingly" (ST, 22 Sep 2011)

Didn't work for you this time Dr Cho. Your 29 elders have the evidence and spoke boldly without fear of your threat.

CHC have used this to their full advantage over a decade ago in silencing businessman Roland Poon who asserted that church funds were used to fund Sun Ho's Crossover Project. Roland Poon had to issue a public apology. Glad that he is now vindicated for the court has heard that church funds were indeed used to fund Sun Ho's singing career from as early as 2001, and definitely in 2003. 

Similarly, according to online media, Bobby Chaw, a pastor of CHC, also issued a warning about the media "pre-judging" in relation to the suspension of 9 key CHC staff. This was done through the official statement made by the church on 28 June 2012. It should be noted that as a leader, anything said in public has an influence on its followers. The result of such statements (personally, I view it as a threat, so do some other online media), made in a highly sensitive and emotional context resulted in a witch-hunt and name-calling for the COC by members of CHC. Not too nice to plaster more screenshots, but some are found in earlier posts. Me thinks that COC had been too nice; they should just make public it's findings there and then - and once and for all put an end to all the name calling on the COC.

3) "Did not make any personal gain"

In an updated statement issued on 22 Feb 2014 regarding the sentencing of Dr Cho, the Management Board of CHC cited "very reliable sources that Dr Cho had no personal gain from any of the investments" (source)

One need not look far to find contradicting reports from the 29 elders who lodged the commission's against Dr Cho. In fact, they have out forward some very serious allegations in their writing, besides those already charged:

"Ha Sang-ok , who was part of the group for nearly two decades, admits to being involved in some fraud : " In the last 14 years I have seen and done bad things. I tried to convince the pastor to stop, but he paid no attention. His behavior is not that of a Christian, but like that of a guru of a sect". (source)

"First, they claim that Cho returned only 64.3 billion won (US$60.2 million) of the 163.3 billion won (US$152.9 million) he borrowed from the church while building the CCMM Building between 1992 and 1998, when he was chairman of the church‘s Mission Society. The remaining 99 billion won (US$92.7 million), they say, was never returned.

It is also being claimed that Cho’s third son Seung-jae’s International Club Management Group bought three floors of the building from the church for 29.5 billion won (US$27.6 million) and sold them back three years later for 37.2 billion won (US$34.8 million) - pocketing the difference of 7.7 billion won (US$7.2 million).

They also claimed that David Cho’s wife Kim Sung-hae, president of Hansei University, has yet to account for 10.5 billion won (US$9.8 million) paid by the church as support for Bethesda Christian University, an institution she runs in the US. The elders also view US real estate purchased by the university for around US$15 million as having been bought with church money." (Source)

In the corporate statement dated 28 June 2012, Pastor Aries Zulkarnain also states that "no profit was gained by the individuals concerned" (source)

Just highlighting the similarities and at the same time wonder how this has got anything to do with the deeds already done. After all, how would these "reliable sources" know, and can we believe a statement based on unnamed "reliable sources"?

4) Complain is only made by the minority

According to the statement made by the CHC Management Board in 2011, the complain was made by 29 of over 800 elders, hence the implied treatment is that to ignore the minority's view. If this is not a leading symptom of groupthink, I really don't know what to call it.

Me thinks that when the minority's alternate opinion is faced with the majority's, in a highly charged environment with a charismatic leader, there's no guessing whose opinion - no matter how truthful or factual will be dismissed. Just think Roland Poon.

Monkey See, Monkey Try to Outdo? Or Flocking Together Birds of Same Feather? 

If we examine the associations Pastor Kong Hee has with his group of  "spiritual fathers" and good friends (let's not talk about the advisory pastor pair of Phil Pringle and AR Bernard now - will examine them in due time), it is surprising what we can find:

1) Steve Munsey: Regular weekend service and conference speaker in CHC from 2008 to 2011

- Over-indulgence in personal benefits, while failing to make mortgage repayments, resulting in foreclosure order

List of sources:

2) Abraham Alex Taneseputra: Considered to be another "Spiritual Father" to Pastor Kong

- accused of embezzling approximately USD500million (4.7T INR)

Sources (google-translated from Bahasa Indonesia, so the language syntax might be off - best read from original source language): (contains separate articles)

Kong Hee - The Successor to Abraham Alex and Yonggi Cho

In the May 2010 Asia Conference, Dr Cho have laid hands on Pastor Kong and handed the baton to him. It seems that he is the designated successor to Dr Cho, who prophesied that he will outdo his accomplishments. 

In another meeting in Indonesia, Alex Abraham also named Pastor Kong to be his successor and prophesied over him that he will have "full vindication" from the Lord. (video recording of service available upon request - link private after being removed)

What is the outcome of such laying on of hands is still to be seen in the coming months, but if there's any potential of impartation, then whatever is on the hands of the imparter will certainly go to the impartee - might not be a good thing after all.

Bottom line in the Dr Cho case, is that, in the own words of the Management Board, he is "innocent until proven guilty" and all have waited until "due process of the law is complete". And sorry to note, their "reliable sources" who claimed that this was a "civil suit" have failed them again - it's a criminal proceeding.

If past history is a good gauge of future occurrences, then everything that was ever said by them just fell to the ground. This is certainly not a happy day for Christianity in Singapore and the world. They can always blame their sources for misleading them, anyway.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Wahju Hanafi - Just one of the Instrument Pieces to "Make Things Happen"?

We have examined the relationship between CHC and Xtron. Now we turn our attention to another company linked in the sham bonds allegations - PT Firna Glassware owned byWahju Hanafi who is also a good friend of Pastor Kong Hee, and an ex-Xtron Director. So how is Wahju Hanafi and his company involved in this case?

According to various sources including CityNewsSG and Pastor Kong himself, the Hanafi family is very supportive of Sun Ho's Crossover project, and have sponsored her singing career from as early as 2003. Hanafi also considers himself a good friend of Pastor Kong, and would bless him with things every year, including a share of ownership in a Sentosa Cove property.

Referring to a ST report (source), "the prosecution's charges against Kong and four other senior CHC members yesterday said that alleged dishonest transfers of $11 million from CHC's building fund to PT The First National Glassware between Oct 6, 2008 and June 19, 2009 were meant to fund Ms Ho's career and "for the purpose of providing funds to one Wahju Hanafi".

Why would a church invest in corporate bonds and is there anything wrong with a church investing in a corporate bond? Firstly, for a church like CHC with millions of cash assets, it is wise to invest the money into good quality bonds in order to hedge inflation. Furthermore, investing in bonds allows the church the potential to earn a higher return than what the banks can offer. Definitely the works of a faithful steward one would think.

So what is the problem here? 

While investing in bonds is a perfectly legitimate financial activity that a charity would engage in, the issue here seems to be the way which the bonds were structured is of a suspicious nature - CHC wanted to invest $11million in Firna bonds as a way to divert funds to finance Sun Ho's singing career.

Now this got me asking - if the defense's case was that "it was always clear the church's building fund monies were used to produce Ms Ho's music albums and that the auditors signed off on the various audits", then why is there even a need to channel funds through Firna to finance it in the first place? Why can't CHC just outright transfer the money over to fund Sun Ho's career?

Let us just say that they want to keep the activity a "stealth" and discreet affair (we will examine this "stealth" business in another post) - and CHC prefers to invest in another company (Firna) who will in turn invest in Sun Ho's singing career. Fair enough. So within the bond agreement, CHC included a convertible clause which allows CHC to convert the bonds into Firna shares in the event Firna cannot redeem its loan. This ensured some form of protection for CHC, which is the right thing to do.

However, there seems to be more than meets the eye - the DPP uncovered "emails of a secret letter" which is to be sent to Firna owners (Wahju and his father in law). This secret letter contains a promise that the church will sell the converted Firna shares (in the event Firna cannot repay the loan and convertibility option was exercised) back to them for a nominal value of $1! (source) This effectively removes whatever protection to CHC for their investments. Now - why would the leaders of CHC want to do that, if Firna is not in any way related to them? 

Furthermore, according to the recent cross examination (source), another tranche of bonds was issued to Firna to redeem the earlier bond carried out through a complex chain of companies:

CHC invested into AMAC Capital Partners' Special Opportunity Fund (SOF). This company was the fund manager of CHC and was owned by one of the accused, Chew Eng Han. AMAC then loaned the money from CHC to Ultimate Assets, a company owned by Wahju Hanafi, who then loaned it to Firna to redeem the bonds. Certainly looks a complicated chain of money transfer to challenge the IQ of Einstein. An overview of the entire round-tripping is shown below:

If these are not already intriguing enough, in an earlier cross examination in May 2013, the DPP also showed an email chain between some of the accused and another accountant. Within this email, Wahju, when asked to "keep to the timeline" and "complete certain transactions in the soonest possible time frame", include this statement in his reply:

"All these costs are to be borne by Xtron or whatever company. We are just instruments to make things happen." (source)

All these and the defense have no case to answer? I think the 6 need to clarify many things in court and let Singapore hear their side of the story. Meanwhile, the mystery continues...

Monday, 10 February 2014

City Harvest Church Leaders Have NO CASE TO ANSWER

Today heaven shone a bright halo of hope on many heads as City Harvest Church members proclaimed victory as their defense team of Senior Counsels decided to submit to the judge that the 6 has no case to answer. The basis of this conclusion was summarized in the following points by the defense (source):

1) "the defence pointed out that there was no breach in the church's constitution when the Building Fund was used for the investments."

2) "it was always clear the church's building fund monies were used to produce Ms Ho's music albums and that the auditors signed off on the various audits."

3) they "also stressed that no church money was lost."

However, the court also heard that "the information which the auditors based their work on came from the accused."

As someone following this case, this is what me thinks of these information, looking at various public information available:

1) "No Case To Answer" Reason #1:  "the defence pointed out that there was no breach in the church's constitution when the Building Fund was used for the investments."

After reading through the revised Nov 2009 constitution of CHC, Article II clause 6 to 9 satisfied the requirement, although I do not understand how the role of Sun Ho singing and dancing to tunes like "China Wine", "Bang Bang" and "Kill Bill" aims to meet the objects stated in Article II clauses 1 through 5. Well, who am I to judge? Noteworthy anyhow...

Contrasting the 2 periods of the Crossover Project, the latter years (2007 and beyond, above) seem to have much more messed up inconsistencies as compared to the early Crossover phase (2002-2006) below. These mandarin songs looks like a better fit to fulfill objects listed in Articles 1 to 5 stated in the CHC Constitution, and the well known target market of Asia, especially China:

2) "No Case To Answer" Reason #2:  "it was always clear the church's building fund monies were used to produce Ms Ho's music albums and that the auditors signed off on the various audits."

I'm not too sure about this - based on the AGM recording link from my previous blog post (Is Xtron and City Harvest Church Related?), it is not so clear that the church building fund monies were used to produce Ms Ho's music albums - the executive members present in that meeting of 28 March 2010 also does not seem to be aware of church funding and support because they only just had a non-binding straw poll to provide full funding and manpower support for the Crossover Project:

According to Dr Victor Lim Fei, then an Executive Member of CHC in 2010 and currently one of it's Board Members (1:39:30), "Pastor I just want to say as you already mentioned just now, Sun's embodiment of the Cultural Mandate is the collective vision of CHC - everyone of us here in this place. As such, I would like to perhaps recommend the full support of the church be excapaded to include whatever financial and manpower resources we can muster for the work that she's doing"

Furthermore, in the same recording, the role and funding of Sun Ho up to the date of the straw poll was clearly communicated by Pastor Kong to the executive members (1:21:06):

"On the blog forums, Xtron is accused of behind Sun's singing career... all right... now in 2002 when Sun started out in the music industry, recording companies would sign artiste for years and exercise full control over them... we wanted Sun to have a management company that would allow her to have the flexibility to continue serving the vision of the church especially in her humanitarian efforts whenever she's needed by the church". (paraphrased, refer to the recording) Quotes the Taiwanese pop-group, FIR as his disciples and how challenging it was to get them to perform in the Asian Conference but was not allowed by their recording company who wanted a a high performance fee ($60,000 for 2 songs). In the end they had to take personal leave to perform and risk being sued for performing in the Asian Conference.

Personally, I love FIR!

"So... I mean... Sun is not just a new girl starting out... she's... a co-founder... you know... she's... my wife! She co-founded the church. So... during the AGM of 27 April 2003, together with our auditor, we informed our members very clearly... very clearly... that Sun's Crossover Project was sponsored by the Hanafi family and other various individuals. NOT BY CITY HARVEST. If you remembered, we even showed a video... that was made very clear back then. So... how is Xtron's relationship with Sun? Kar Weng, can you please from the horse's mouth tell the people" (you can continue with my previous blog posting)

At least we know from the recording that it was very clear that the church's building fund were NOT USED to produce Sun ho's music albums and singing career! This recording was dated on 28 March 2010 - so we know any deviation is a major discrepancy from what was revealed in court.

But the auditors signed off the various audit - how do we explain that? First off, Foong Daw Ching claimed that the statement was prepared for him to read (source) but he could not remember the person. Please forgive his amnesia. Following that, other auditors taking the stand also reported conflicting versions of their auditing experience. One of them, Mr Sim Guan Seng says that the bonds appeared to be doubtful (source). Too technical - I'll leave it to the judge - but looking at some of the accused's emails and letters which were backdated and showing deliberate attempts to hide certain facts from the auditor, I do have my personal doubts. Moving on...

3) "No Case To Answer" Reason #3: "they also stressed that no church money was lost."

I am not sure if this will hold any water because funds were indeed taken and used. Put it this way - if - supposedly investigations had not begun in 2010, would the money been returned? We probably will never know. And if the funds taken to return the money was borrowed to fill the gap, then it still leaves one gaping hole in the financials, and members' money will still eventually have to be used.

IMHO, lame lame lame. Good try nevertheless - there was a case example where the perpetrator got away with a lighter sentence because he confessed early and made full restitution:

SPH senior executive Peter Khoo fined S$100k for corruption and CBT

Not sure how this will turn out:

Well, it's the judge's call. 

4) "Case To Answer" Reason #1:  the information which the auditors based their work on came from the accused.

As I have written in my previous blog post, establishing the relationship between CHC and Xtron is more important to understand this complicated crossover guarantee relationship. This is the interesting part where the prosecution have shown many paper trial of attempts to mislead the auditors, such as (refer to source for context):

He added: "The only problem of using the word 'control' is that if it gets to the auditors, they may get ultra-conservative and say we own Xtron, and therefore we need to consolidate (the two). So we need to find a balance between what we tell our AGM - annual general meeting - (they want full control) and what we tell auditors (we don't want them to think we control Xtron)."

In another set of e-mail messages in 2008, Wee also told church founder Kong Hee, Tan and Chew that she had received advice from a fellow church member: "We can talk about Xtron to the members in the (extraordinary general meeting) but don't minute down everything. Just minute down necessary portions so as to not show too close a relationship or control over Xtron."

"Eng Han drew a diagram... The Firna bonds were part of the diagram. To me, the overall purpose was because the auditors of CHC were not comfortable with the bonds, that's why there was a need to restructure the bonds and the debt."
The lead auditor testifying in the trial of the six leaders of the City Harvest Church today (Jan 24) said he would not have signed off on the church’s accounts if he had been aware of the discussions among the accused and would have raised more questions. (source)

Whatever it is, I'm glad that this trial has finally reached a new crescendo - the defense filing no case to answer is definitely a fresh twist. Nevertheless, it'll be interesting to celebrate Birthday together at the docks in August. 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Is Xtron and City Harvest Church Related?

The "City Harvest Church Trial" is now entering into the end of the 3rd tranche and court proceedings is getting draggy with an over-focus on the auditors and Xtron bonds and other minute details. It's looking like a tennis match!

Me thinks the contention should be on the relationship between CHC and Xtron, instead of whether the auditors were aware. After all, auditors only have after-the-fact info to audit the accounts prepared by the management board. This article looks at the relationship between CHC and Xtron.

Here's an article where a recording of a EGM was held on 28 March 2010. It's painful to listen to the entire recording of over 2 hours, so the transcription given by the person who posted on CHC Confessions page and summarize the key content is added below for reference:

1) How is Xtron's relationship with Sun?

According to Mr Choong Kar Weng (one of the Directors of Xtron) and an ex-Board Member of CHC (in 1:23:30 of the recording),

"Xtron is Sun's agent when she signed Linden's (can't hear clearly) Records, (some other record company) and Warner Music. Sun was no longer an artiste in Xtron since 31st July 2008 when she signed a comprehensive contract with the Americans. So let me say it again (Kar Weng emphasized), Xtron was only Sun's agent from 2003 to 2008. We are no longer Sun's agent since July 2008"

If Xtron is no longer Sun's agent with effect from 31st July 2008, how can the proceeds of Sun Ho's album sales after 1st August 2008 repay CHC's investment over 10 years, based on the restructured bonds with a 10-year redemption period as reported in CityNewsSG (source)?

2) Are the "Crossover" Personal Guarantees Suspicious?

Imagine this: Xena runs a CD shop but business was not doing well, and lost $6million over the past few years. Last year, Xena decided to start a business selling CDs online and goes to Charlie to obtain a loan for the business, promising 7% interest in return. Charlie agrees, since the returns of 7% is attractive, and lends Xena the money, in spite of Xena's failing business. Xena promises to return the money in 2 years but was unable to repay the debt fully because the police caught them selling pirated CDs and business was halted. Xena then negotiated with Charlie to restructure the debt and pay it off within 10 years, using proceeds from the CD sales. To convince Charlie that his investment is safe, Xena asked Charlie's best friend, Wilfred to help guarantee the loan - in case Xena fails to repay the debt, Wilfred will be responsible to repay Charlie. Now - does it make sense that Charlie now become a guarantor to Wilfred on it's own loan, such that in the event Xena and Wilfred fail to repay Charlie's loan, Charlie will come in to cover the loan for Wilfred's behalf?

The crossing over of personal guarantees is a major point of consideration in the validity of Xtron Bonds because in the event that Xtron cannot redeem it's bonds issued to CHC, then a personal guarantee that Wahyu Hanifi placed to indemnify Xtron against all loses it was to suffer for the Crossover Project will take effect (source). The interesting thing was that according to media reports, Pastor Kong Hee and Tan Ye Peng, Chew Eng Han and Koh Siow Ngea had also signed personal guarantee to indemnify Hanafi for any losses he might incur as a result of his indemnity.

Why are leaders of CHC placing a personal guarantee on matters relating to Xtron? Is CHC and Xtron separate legal entities, or are they actually closely related? What is their relationship?

3) Is Xtron a viable commercial business?

This part is a constant exchange of microphone to present Xtron and CHC sides by Pastor Aries Zulkernain and Choong Kar Weng respectively:

According to Mr Choong Kar Weng (one of the Directors of Xtron) and an ex-Board Member of CHC (in 1:07:56 of the recording) at the invitation of Pastor Kong,

"Xtron Productions was started in the year 2003 as a private business to engage the marketplace in the area of media and entertainment. It seeks to be a professional events management company that can be contracted for commercial professional concerts, conventions, and national events. The current directors of Xtron are me (Kar Weng) and Siow Ngea.... We have not taken any Directors fees or dividends and both of us do not intend to in the future".

Pastor Aries continues to explain the scope of Xtron - because the existing CHC staff are not skilled to run the events, hence CHC has to engage other parties like Chiap Seng Pte Ltd, Unusual Productions, etc to provide equipment and personnel support. Xtron also to provides CHC's full time AV staff who are dissatisfied with their career development prospects (i.e. doing the same thing week in and week out - plug in to equipment, plug out). Xtron provides an avenue for the full-time AV staff of CHC opportunities to expand their careers and gain more exposure to other productions etc .. and work with other industry professionals in Asia so they will not quit.

The mic was handed back to Choong Kar Weng - he explains that Xtron took part in many commercial projects (a list of them)... then he follows: "today, I'm happy to say that Xtron is one of the leading production companies in Singapore. Our team consists of some of the most respected sought after professionals in the media industry"

Pastor Aries took over to explain why they chose Xtron - because they are Christians and share the same values and work ethics as CHC. He added, "their (Xtron) prices are competitive compared to other companies" and they are dependable and willing to serve CHC (in terms of supporting them with last minute work request on 24/7 basis, etc)

Choong Kar Weng then added, " Xtron is a for-profit business that charges commercial rates for its services provided. When we work with CHC, we deal with the church (CHC) at arms length just like any other clients. We are grateful that CHC is our major client and we do want to have a long-term relationship with that's mutually beneficial"

Pastor Aries added that in 2005 when CHC is looking for their building, they wanted a stadium arena or conventional hall (a commercial property that can be rented out whenever CHC is not using it). This requires a fully privatized company to acquire and manage the use of the CHC commercial property. So when we went to Expo, we have to commit to a certain number of days which is more than what we require for CHC's services or events usage.

Choong Kar Weng added - so in 2005 Xtron became the master lessee (we are the main tenant master tenant) of Singapore Expo Hall 8, and we sub-let the facility to CHC. Our role is also to actively seek other potential users of the expo hall when CHC is not using so they can earn more.

Pastor Aries addeded that they also adopt the same model for Suntec deal. Xtron signed the license agreement with Suntec, and sub-let to CHC. On those days CHC does not require space, Xtron will rent out the hall to third parties to bring in additional revenue to defray the rental cost of CHC. This was explained and documented in the 10 Aug 2008 EOGM. "Management board has evaluated the rates of various service providers and found Xtron's charges to be reasonable and competitive" (he cited some examples such as manpower expenses and reliable services) 

Who can reject such a "mutually beneficial partnership"? However, looking at what the auditors highlighted, Xtron actually recorded 4 consecutive year-on-year losses between Dec 2004 to Dec 2007 totaling $5,891,401. The accumulated losses up to Dec 2006 amounted to $3,444,908. Not quite the profile one who claims themselves to be one of the leading production companies in Singapore would have. Times are really bad me thinks!  "Mutually beneficial"?

Yet in spite of the horrible financials, CHC proceeded to invest in Xtron's bonds issues, and subsequently took a restructuring offer and cross guaranteeing the guarantor's personal guarantee - in spite of the consecutive muitiple period running losses, and that their cash cow (Sun Ho) is no longer under their management from 31st July 2008. How did Xtron even stay on in business, with such losses over 4 years?

Without considering the auditors opinion, me thinks that any level headed individual will see something wrong in this money-lending relationship? Considering the fact that CHC and Xtron claims to be unrelated parties, this will be even more intriguing to see.

4) Are the Executive Members aware that CHC's Building Funds are used to fund Sun's Crossover Project?

Now that the court proceedings and CHC finally revealed that Xtron bonds were used to support Sun Ho's career using money from the CHC's Building Funds, the question is when were the Executive Members made aware of this "fact"? Was in before the bonds were purchased in 2007/2008, or was it during the same straw poll EGM meeting on 28 March 2010?

According to Dr Victor Lim Fei, then an Executive Member of CHC in 2010 and currently one of it's Board Members (1:39:30), "Pastor I just want to say as you already mentioned just now, Sun's embodiment of the Cultural Mandate is the collective vision of CHC - everyone of us here in this place. As such, I would like to perhaps recommend the full support of the church be excapaded to include whatever financial and manpower resources we can muster for the work that she's doing"

Still, as at 2010 there's no mention of the funding of Sun's Crossover project using church building funds - or rather, at least at the date of this clip implies, that the EMs were not even aware that church funding was even used until Dr Victor Lim recommended the full financial and manpower support. How much more the other members who have no access to the meetings? In fact, from as early as 2002/2003, the church were time and time again reminded that her singing career was not funded with a single cent of church funds!

Legally, it did not really matter regarding the bond issue, since as reported in the media, the auditors only recorded relevant entries - and since bond investments were accurately recorded that CHC building fund was invested in Xtron Bonds, it is now up to Xtron to use the money in whatever way it deems fit - such as to continue to fund Sun Ho's singing career (even when she is no longer under Xtron's management??)

Backdated Documents and Emails

Throughout the second and third tranche of the trial, the deputy public prosecutors also produced many records of emails suggesting that CHC staff is directing the flow of funds, and that the directors of Xtron do not always have answers as to when and why they signed certain documents. This just adds to the cloud of confusion between the relationship of CHC and Xtron.

Does CHC control Xtron? Let's leave it to the judge to decide, but me thinks the relationship between them is obviously clear. Next up, we will look at another company involved in the alleged sham bonds transaction - PT Firna Glass.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The "City Harvest Church Trial" - A Conspiracy Theory?

In a post discussion on the Facebook page "CHC Confessions", a lady (probably pseudo-figure) by the name of Emiko Teraz claimed that she had a dinner with the personal assistant of one of the 6 accused. The objective of the meeting was to tell their side of the story, and at the same time solicit money for the legal funds. An extract of her comments were included below:

"Of course we know Insurance companies will never become their sucker! My guess was right then (before so many truths revealed in court),there and then I put a stop on my spouse to channel 5 figures sum to fund their legal fees. God gives us good wisdom to discern what went seriously wrong. If insurance companies said NO, there must be something very very wrong. Simple logic and God is indeed wonderful, HE revealed via the mouth of the person who is very close to KH!!! Long term friendship and "sincere talk" means NOTHING if the foundation is wrong."

"Terry, the meeting was meant- for him to tell the truth (as a friend whom we knew for more than 10 years , we gave chance),but it turned out as a session for him to tell his side of story with many conspiracy theory applied. We did not prepare the recorder, but we paid the bill for the dinner . It happened in overseas."

"When the leader's PA explain to us to beg for donation(few thousands KM away,13 months ago), he thought we are complete idiot who choose to ignore the cold hard facts and hopefully we are on their side to believe insurance companies are unfair, authorities are unfair....blah blah blah! Sounds like elite repent."

Is There Even a Conspiracy Theory at All?

If it is not already absurd enough that the leadership of CHC subliminally implanted suggestions of demonic attacks and persecutions for their current predicament to their members, telling people that the government has a conspiracy theory to destroy the 6 leaders is definitely THE moment to be!

Let us consider the following possibilities:

1) "The 6 are in the current predicament because the government is afraid of the growing numbers of CHC membership, and need to find an excuse to bring it down."

Is the government really hatching a plot to destroy the lives of the 6 and to bring down City Harvest Church, or is it actually a case of some misconduct by the leaders that was exposed and in order to save their own skin, they had to hide behind the people power of their membership? This was first suggested by the writer (a CHC-member) of an article titled "This is Where I Draw the Line". Citing part of the article:

"If "balance is the key to life", what the right balance is stays elusively subjective. To keep that "ideal balance", the general observation is that the local politic stance is to keep small whatever is not controlled from within. And it naturally applies to religious organizations, among others. If gathering 40,000 people in a football stadium to support the national team is not much to worry about (though it is difficult to achieve in Singapore of late!), it is thought otherwise for associations, churches, clans, unions etc. which can deal with affairs closer to the government sphere of influence.

So the question is: What size must an organization reach to start being on the Authorities’ radar and be considered as a subject to watch with more or less scrutiny?

It is naturally difficult to generalize. In the case of City Harvest Church, Singapore’s largest independent charismatic Protestant church, it probably starting garnering non-official attention from the authorities once it reached 5,000 members. At 30,000 (or 1.5% of the overall Singapore population) the alert zone was by then being reached.
" (Source: This is Where I Draw The Line, Truth Disclosed Facebook Page, currently taken offline)

I need to point out that this argument is extremely fallible and seditious - in terms of the Christian community in Singapore, CHC is NOT the largest church. There are the various denominations each definitely have over 30,000 members, the Catholics, and the independent churches such as New Creation, FCBC, Lighthouse and Cornerstone. Should the government then be concerned that they will cause "social unrest"? I don't think so, but misguided CHC members have time and time again proven they can be quite a menace, especially when it comes to challenging the authorities!

Secondly, I need to point out that if the government is in indeed afraid or "threatened" by a big church, then CHC will hardly make it into the top 3 list of threats simply because there are much larger denominations in Singapore and CHC DOES NOT HAVE A MEMBERSHIP of 33,000 in 2010 as claimed! The figure comprises of "database names", as stated in their report. The audited attendance, conducted by Global Church Solutions and "Stanfield & O’Dell puts their attendance at below 23,000. Citing CityNews:

"as of 28 February 2011, CHC’s congregation size is 22,049. The congregation size comprises attendees who attend our weekend services regularly in the past one year(source:

With a regular membership of that figure, and comparing independent denomination churches, New Creation Church alone outnumbers them with around 25,000 members in the same period.

I have already written about the no-nonsense approach the Singapore government adopts against corruption and white collar crime - whether is it within the high ranks of their departments or a commercial organisation. Is this not a demonstration of non-bias on the part of the government? 

Anyone believing the "conspiracy theory" against the 6 accused on the basis of the government's worry over the size of CHC ought to really do deeper investigation to the person saying it.

2) "The public is jealous of Sun Ho's success"
This was not a new theory. In fact, as early as early 2000's during the Roland Poon saga, this possibility was being echoed citing the bible verse in Mark 6:4, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home."

Being a Singaporean, I cannot imagine why I would be jealous of a fellow Singaporean who does Singapore proud by putting us on the world map. We have no problem with people such as Kit Chan, Stephanie Sun, Tania Phua, Corrine May, Tan Han Jin, etc doing well in Asia's mandopop scene! Why should we be ashamed of her when she won so many accolades and awards in Asian Music scene as well as Hollywood Billboard Charts - no Singaporean has ever even done it!

Fact of the matter is - the public are not jealous of her success. Rather, the public are ashamed of her (synthetic)-success because it did not birth out of talent, but out of funds taken from the church and used without their knowledge until recently! That explains why we rejoice when we see Stephanie Sun winning the music awards and Tania Phua finally sees her talent recognized - but sorry, not an award Chinawine.

Sorry to disappoint all the die-hard fans out there.

3) "The 6 and CHC are under the attack of the devil; that's why we are in this state"

This is even more interesting because all throughout church history, demonic persecution do not happen to individuals - it strikes the entire population. Furthermore, demonic oppression should always lead to growth, revival and breakthrough - but the attendance of CHC is dwindling. To put the blame on the devil for personal misdeed is... a really nice try! After all, who else can the devil blame????

4) The 6 and CHC is being persecuted by the government, the public, the devil and the rats!

What the 6 is going through now is prosecution, not persecution - and it was made very clear by the DPM, Mr Teo Chee Hean - so let's settle this once and for all, and not get confused between prosecution and persecution! Unfortunately, it is often painted to CHC members that they are being persecuted, resulting in much emotions against the authorities.

5) The COC is out to destroy the lives and livelihood of CHC staff

The COC is vested with legislative powers to enforce the Charities Act and provide guidance to all charity organisations (IPCs or otherwise). The COC is merely enforcing their duties to protect donors of the charity by exercising the legislative powers vested upon them. At present, they have reason to believe that church funds are misused, resulting in the suspension of the 9 individuals related to the case.

I think it's good news than the COC cleared Sun Ho and that she's free to resume her duties in Church. See? No persecution!

If It's Not Conspiracy Theory, What Else Could It Be?

So... after looking at the above 5 points... can we truly ask ourselves if there's any conspiracy at all, or is the government merely exercising it's responsibilities in order to protect the well-being of its citizens and the reputation of the country? I am deeply concerned for the youth membership who take in everything they are told - hook, line and sinker!

I hope readers will consider these and carry out their own research - especially those overseas who have been painted with all sorts of funny idea about our government and media, and (mis)led to only rely on certain information source.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

3 Musketeers vs Wonder Woman

Disclaimer: This article was written on a without prejudice basis. Just trying to understand why the trial is taking so long for Mr/Miss UnderTheCarpet's consideration.

The unfortunately-termed “City Harvest Trial” involving the 6 individuals from the CHC leadership charged with CBT, Falsification of Accounts and Misappropriation of church funds took an intense twist when the defense bombarded the lead investigation officer (Lead IO) from the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) over 2 key documents – the First Information Report (FIR) and the Suspicious Transaction Report (STR), and accusation that CAD did not seize all relevant audit  working papers from the auditor.  

What is the FIR and STR?

According to the Law Society, “A First Information Report is the first report received by the police about an offence, it may be a Police Report or the transcript of a "999" call.” The person requesting for this report (be it the accused, the accused’s lawyer, etc) will have to pay for the report. The defense counsel for Tan Ye Peng has paid $14.20 for a copy and cheekily (in the spirit of light-heartedness in the midst of an intense exchange) asked for a refund – the price of Chicken Chop at Astons – when he claimed that he was “misled” by the lead IO who gave him a 2010 copy but the first instances of the FIR was filed in 2005 and 2008 respectively.  

The significance of the FIR is that it allows for the accused to explain his conduct with respect to the complaint filed in the FIR. In the case of the City Harvest 6, there were a number of FIR filed, the earliest in 2005, 2008 and 2010, but CAD only launched an investigation in May 2010 and the FIR provided only recorded complaint relating to falsification of accounts. The defense argument is that the accused were not aware of CBT related investigations, and hence cannot explain their actions.

Paraphrasing information from the Commercial Affairs Department website, the Suspicious Transaction Reporting (STR) framework is a reporting channel under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act, commonly known as the CDSA, legislated to combat money laundering in Singapore. Section 39(1) of the CDSA makes it mandatory for a person, who in the course of his business or employment, to lodge a Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) if he knows or has reason to suspect that any property may be connected to a criminal activity. The failure to do so may constitute a criminal offence.

So What’s The Big Deal?

According to the media (ST, CN and others), in the case of the “CHC Trial”, the first FIR (which is also a STR) was filed as early as 2005, and again in 2008 and 2010. In between these periods, there were also other FIRs and STRs being filed as well as information received from various sources. It is thus not surprising that the dates of the report can be confusing. From CN’s report dated 29 Jan 2014, the defense counsel for Tan Ye Peng had requested for the FIR on Jun 27, 2012 and was given a document marked NP299 for $14.20 inclusive for photography (GST was not mentioned). The counsel's issue was that the lead IO had “misled” him by not giving him the FIR dated earlier, hence depriving the accused of their chance to explain their action before the charges. This is in spite of the prosecution’s clarification with the defense counsel shortly after the FIR was sent to him. (Source:

Many CN followers have latched on to the recent CN reports (of 28th to 30th Jan 2014) and claimed bias against the accused, adding to the intense view against the State’s prosecution, especially from CHC membership.

What It Could Have Been

Me thinks that the FIR indeed was based on a complaint about falsification of accounts, but as investigations progressed and more things uncovered between 2010 to 2012, the investigation led to other things, such as the much contended CBT charge. I dunno, but when I watched TVB dramas with scenes depicting ICAC and CIB investigations, the IO would always verbally give warning to the accused when doing interrogation about what he is being investigated for, and then offered coffee and a chance to work with the authorities. Well reel-life is always a reflection of real-life, I guess.

Looking at the angry status on social media, it seems that many on the side of the accused is implying that the prosecution is denying the accused a fair trial, and mocked the prosecution’s (DPP Mavis Chionh) vehement objections to the defense counsel’s grilling of the lead IO. Taken objectively, the DPP is merely trying to protect the identity of the informant under Section 36 of the PCA. Protection of the informant(s) is important and necessary, in order to encourage forthcoming information of criminal activities by "insiders" (a.k.a. whistleblowing) which is not easily detected by outsiders. Not easy for a woman to come against 3 highly educated men (the "Tong-NS-Maniam" trio) to protect the identity of some law-abiding citizens!

I especially like her counter argument to counsel Edwin Tong in an earlier cross-fire exchange about his charge that “CAD did not seize all relevant working papers from Baker Tilly” – (I paraphrase) that if he has got any evidence that would support the defense case to show it. She’s a Wonder Woman indeed! 

Me also think that it is not right to put the informant on the table – he should be kept “under the table” and even better, be swept "under the carpet”, safely covered by the provision of S36 – to avoid being stoned by the angry mob. My personal opinion is that the defense is really just trying to pick on small technical details in finding fault with the FIR dates, in a bid to throw off the CBT charges (Ref: The Law On Corruption In Singapore: Cases and Materials” by Tan Boon Gin, Chapter 8). The FIR has already been given and with clarification from the prosecution to the defense counsel shortly after the delivery of the report, this should not be an issue – otherwise the counsel could have raised it during PTC held much earlier between 2012 and 2013 before the trial.

Me thinks… CHC members should also refer to other media outlets besides CityNews SG for more complete reporting - no newspaper can cover every angle, so it would be good to triangulate from different sources, to avoid being made subjects of propaganda. Also, can Mr/Miss “Not-Under-The-Carpet” write to the defense counsel to stop wasting time bickering on the minors and technicalities and get to work on the trial and start shoving evidence to the prosecution that the 6 accused had been above and beyond reproach in their dealings (if any), please? At the end of the day, legal fees of around $1 million per tranche each can buy many FIRs and Chicken Chops from Aston’s… enough for a lifetime…