Using the church's building fund to support a project that benefited the church was not being dishonest, especially when it was founded on full belief and faith, argued former City Harvest Church (CHC) fund manager Chew Eng Han on Friday (Sept 16).
Speaking to a three-judge panel on the second day of the appeal, Chew, 57, refuted the charges of dishonest misappropriation that was made out by the prosecution.
Chew, who is representing himself, is one of six CHC leaders convicted of misappropriating church funds to fuel the pop music career of CHC founder Kong Hee's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, in a church mission known as the Crossover Project.
He was handed a six-year jail term.
He argued that the bond proceeds of music production company Xtron and glass-maker Firna did not go into his own pocket, but were for the church's benefit.
"I never thought it was a crime to apply the building fund to the Crossover," said Chew, adding that it was a mission of the church and an investment to make money.
He said that a civil suit can be brought against him for a breach of contract for using the building fund for an unauthorised purpose. But in a "layman's understanding of the law", he would not have committed a crime.
The prosecution had been misguided to say that wrongful use equated to dishonest misappropriation, Chew said.
He said the prosecution painted him as a "clever scheming fund manager hiding illegal activities" when he had in fact "suffered" because of his blind faith in the church.
Chew, who told the court he and his family had donated $1 million to the church, pointed out: "I'm not a taker to the church. I'm a giver, and thieves don't give to the owners of the property."
When he structured the bonds, he had relied on the words of professionals and Kong's positive expectations that Ms Ho's US album launch would be a success, paving the way for the Crossover Project.
Referring to an email by Kong in 2005, he said that the latter told church leaders that Ms Ho was a "singing diva". Kong also told him that she would be the "next Whitney Houston".
Later, when Justice Chan Seng Onn asked him: "So you were brainwashed?"
Chew replied: "Yes, I was."
The trial resumes after a lunch break, with former finance manager Sharon Tan presenting her case.
Kong, Chew, Tan and three other former church leaders are back in court to appeal against their convictions and sentences in the high-profile financial scandal involving $50 million in church funds.
On Thursday (Sept 15), the first day of the appeal, Kong and John Lam, 48, a former CHC finance committee member, presented their cases.