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CHC slammed for ‘secrecy, culture of insecurity
CHC slammed for ‘secrecy, culture of insecurity
by NEO CHAI CHIN - OCTOBER 23, Friday, TODAYonline, Singapore
SINGAPORE — Criticising what he called the culture of insecurity that six City Harvest Church leaders convicted yesterday (Oct 21) operated under, Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon saved some of his strongest words for church founder Kong Hee in his 270-page written judgment released to the media today.
The six leaders — Kong, his deputy Tan Ye Peng, former church accountant Serina Wee, former church investment manager Chew Eng Han, former church finance manager Sharon Tan and former church board member John Lam — were found guilty on all counts of criminal breach of trust and/or falsification of accounts.
The judge had delivered his oral judgment, a condensed version of the written grounds, yesterday. He found that they had acted dishonestly and in breach of the trust reposed in them to cause wrongful loss of S$50 million to the church and to defraud auditors.
The judge said Kong capitalised on the church climate of paranoia and fear in 2003 to galvanise support for the Crossover Project — using his wife Ho Yeow Sun’s secular pop music to reach out to non-Christians.
The collective fear arose after then-church member Roland Poon publicly commented that church funds had been used to promote Ms Ho’s music career. Kong’s response to the incident revealed “both his personal dominance and deep insecurity”, said judge See.
The pastor rallied the church “around the big idea that ... CHC’s leaders and by extension the entire church were being maligned and under attack, and hence had to be discreet”, he added.
The effort to keep the church’s financing of the Crossover discreet led to the set-up of Xtron Productions to manage Ms Ho’s career. The criminal charges in this case relate in part to sham bonds worth millions of dollars that the church bought from Xtron to channel church funds to the Crossover Project.
All six leaders’ committed zeal for the Crossover vision may have clouded their objectivity and judgment and obscured the need to safeguard money that was not theirs to use as they wished, said Judge See. They chose to create cover stories and clever round-trips concealing their unlawful conduct, he added.
“The allure of power that can be exercised in secrecy is difficult to resist. When shrouded under a cloak of invisibility, much like the mythical ring of Gyges, persons in such positions of power have no fear of accountability and tend to become their own worst enemies,” he wrote.
The ring of Gyges is a mythical artefact that grants its owner the power to become invisible at will, mentioned in Greek philosopher Plato’s The Republic.
Judge See wrote: “It has thus been wisely said that the real tragedy is when men are afraid of the light, and if they choose not to come into the light they do so for fear that their deeds will be exposed, as they surely will in time.”
Kong would not have been able to act alone and could not orchestrate every move, and the five other leaders were both trusted and trusting, he added.
Noting that none of the six was aware of all the details, the judge said it could be because there were far too many moving parts in the plan for the Crossover to the United States, which grew more ambitious over time.
The US foray involved Ms Ho’s debut English album, which had hip-hop star Wyclef Jean roped in at one point. It led to the church’s sham bond investments worth S$24 million in Xtron and another company, and four of the leaders then misused another S$26.6 million of church funds to try to cover up the first amount.
“But this may have also been the inevitable consequence of CHC’s election to carry out its affairs and operations relating to the funding of the Crossover in a discreet fashion. This was merely a euphemism for a culture of insecurity mired in secrecy and opaqueness where asking difficult or awkward questions was taboo,” the judge wrote.
Separately, Kong broke his silence on the verdict today, posting on Facebook his belief that God would use the outcome of the case for good.
The pastor also thanked his supporters and said: “The days and steps ahead are challenging, but with God’s grace and love, I have no fear.”
The six will be back in court on Nov 20, where they could be sentenced.
A combination photo shows City Harvest Church's members (top left to right, to bottom left to right), former finance manager Serina Wee, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, former finance manager Sharon Tan, founder Kong Hee, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and former treasurer John Lam. Photo: Reuters
Chang excited at Nishikori’s rise
~ TODAYonline, Sports
~ PUBLISHED: 4:16 AM, OCTOBER 23, 2015, Friday
~ UPDATED: 7:47 AM, OCTOBER 23, 2015, Friday
SINGAPORE — Dressed in his Uniqlo tennis gear, he strode through the Fullerton Bay Hotel’s al fresco area unnoticed by the office executives enjoying an after-work tipple.
While Michael Chang may not be turning heads here in Singapore, there is no doubt that the former Asian-American tennis ace has had a huge influence on the sport.
At the 1989 French Open, he became the youngest male player to win a Grand Slam singles title at the age of 17, defeating Stefan Edberg in the five-set final. Chang went on to win 34 singles titles, hitting a career high of world No 2 before retiring in 2003, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire many Asian players on the professional circuit.
And it is fitting that Chang is now working with one of tennis’ most exciting Asian superstar — Japan’s world No 6 Kei Nishikori. Since signing on Chang as a coach in 2013, Nishikori has won seven of his 10 ATP titles, climbed to a career high of world No 4, and qualified for his first Grand Slam final at the 2014 US Open.
WATCH: Interview with Michael Chang (Oct 22)
Fans are hopeful that Nishikori will become the first Asian-born men’s singles player to win a Grand Slam title, and it is a question that Chang gets asked often as well. And the 43-year-old believes his protege has what it takes to make history.
“He came very close last year (at the US Open); he had a great opportunity against Marin (Cilic),” said Chang, who is in town for Tag Heuer’s unveiling of the first tennis floating platform yesterday with tennis superstar Maria Sharapova ahead of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore.
“He’s beaten all the best players in the world so that obviously gives him confidence, and hopefully it’s just a matter of time. I get that question asked almost every time I do an interview with Japanese media — it’s either which one, or when?
“Right now on the men’s side Kei stands out and everybody knows he’s very talented and opportunities for him to do well in big tournaments and Grand Slams are there.
“I’m excited for him and I think he’s approaching the best years of his tennis career and hopefully he can fulfil his goals.”
Regarded as one of the best defensive baseliners of all time, Chang has, ironically, helped Nishikori develop a more aggressive, offensive game on court.
The father-of-two travels with Nishikori on tour and both men enjoy a good relationship both on and off-court, as Chang added: “We have a pretty good relationship. Kei’s more on the quiet, reserved side. He doesn’t talk a lot. The nice thing is he learns very quickly and he works hard. It’s pretty easy to relate to him and talk to him, both being Asian. Our playing styles are a little similar as well.”
While Chang may be focused on his coaching duties, he is also keeping an eye out on the next generation of American youngsters such as Taylor Fritz, Michael Mmoh and Tommy Paul.
He remains optimistic that the United States will soon see another superstar the likes of former world No 1 Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.
“It’s tough to follow in our generation’s footsteps when you’ve got the likes of Sampras, (Jim) Courier, Agassi, myself and a couple others. Tough shoes to follow,” he said.
“We’ll got eight or nine of the world’s best juniors right now. They’ve been dominating the junior circuit. So in four to five years’ time, it’s going to be a lot of fun to see them come out and do well.”
Picture Below: Michael Chang (left) is in town with Maria Sharapova (right) for Tag Heuer’s unveiling of the first tennis floating platform yesterday here.
~ Photo: Don Wong