Church member critical of City Harvest Church’s investment in SuntecPublished by The Online Citizen on March 27, 2010 (source)
Section 1.3: Accountability to Donors“General Principle: The charity and its fund raisers should be accountable to their donors for the donations received1.3.1 The Charity and its fund raisers should ensure that donors received informed and ethical advice about the charity, intended use of donation, value and tax implications of potential donations”Section 8: Disclosure and Transparency“General Principle: As the charity operates with public support through both donations and the use of volunteers, it should be transparent in its operations to maintain the integrity of serving for public trust and community good instead of personal gain. As such, the charity should demonstrate its openness to the public by providing the public with information about its mission, structure, programmes, activities, performance and finances.”
March 11, 2010 (source)
Suntec Convention Centre: CHC’s New Home
It was well till 2005. Everything and everyone is so geared towards loving God fervently. That was till the cultural mandate came in, when SUN HO went to Taiwan to have some concert and shared her testimony to get people saved. It was good and my wife and I even volunteer to go to Taiwan and Medan to help out. It was exciting seeing lives changed. What I don't like is, CGL (cell group leaders) from CHC are pressuring their members to buy 3-4 albums to support SUN HO. Right down in my mind, I was thinking "I only need 1 CD to listen to". Finally, we just bought one to listen. Nothing fantastic about the songs. Her second album was a non-event then. I remember we have a few concerts in church.
Here are some things I have experience first hand. Please note that all these all my personal view through research and first hand experience, it may not be 100% correct:
1. SUN HO contract with Tono Entertainment
I remember Kong Hee saying that a recording company has signed SUN HO to be in LA for 5 million. We simply accepted anything he said . It was until recently that I knew that the company that signed SUN-Tono entertainment had already folded in 2003. How on earth can she sign a contract with them in 2005? Was it a lie from the very first day of the 2005.
2. HC, Mark & co under church payroll?
SUN HO did not go to USA alone. She has Henry Chee and his wife Xiuyan acting as Dayan's nanny. Vivien was there too. Mark was there too and for what purpose I don't know.
Important question is were they under church payroll? The answer is YES and I know this is the question a lot of CHC members would like to ask but don't dare to.
3. SUN HO's real purpose in USA?
This is another question alot of CHC goers would like to know. For what I know is to prepare to penetrate China. But after 5 years, 5 singles there is no clue on how this relates to China. It was till my friend bring to my attention "China Wine' where she dress and acted worse than those circular artistes. Has she backslided?
What is all these about where KONG HEE practically have to fly to & fro LA weekly to see his wife and son. All of us are fooled into believing that KONG HEE has indeed sacrificed a lot for the church and his family.
O-school and Xtron existed just to support her adventure in USA.
Her lifestyle over there was luxurious. Her rental of apartment works out to be $28000 monthly. She got 2 cars there. Was she there for a purpose or just enjoy the new found high life? Her monthly expenses could work out something like this:
- Rental : $28000
- Child Education : $1000
- CHC Staff : $30000
- Car: $2000
On some occasion, she will appear to on some relief sight to help the victims (Haiti) for the church to know that she is doing good for the weak.
4. Xtron & its Financial Nonsense
It was till the newspaper bring out this company that was supposedly SUN HO's marketing company that I came across SUN HO. Before that, I have heard that KONG HEE had started a AV company outside to take care of the AV in church. I though it was brilliant since other people beside CHC can do business with this AV company. It was till last year that I knew this AV company to be Xtron. Why do I have to find out everything from the press and forums? There is simply NO TRANSPARENCY.
It was shocking to know that this company had only ONE customer - CHC and the company had consistently raked up 5-8 millions loss annually from 2005 onwards. 2005 again? Was it a coincidence?
What did it do to rake up these losses? It is logical and normal practice for the company to wrap up after 2-3 years of 7 millions losses yearly. How Xtron get the money to lose? likely from CHC and AMAC (Eng Han's investment vehicle).
It was reported AMAC bought bonds (worth millions) in 2007-2008 to help solve the financial problems. Why would a fund invest in a failing company or something that has no value and in deep shit financially? AMAC was probably funded by the BBGs. Besides, I remember there was some "Mutual Fund" written on the offering envelopes, it was understood this goes to some church mission. Probably this "Mutual Fund" is channelled to the AMAC too.
All these chains of events evolve around SUN HO.
5. SUN HO's popularity
Ever wonder how a 40 year old can have so many fans and on top of US charts. At least that is what is portrayed of her from KONG HEE. The fact is that few Americans heard of SUN HO. The charts probably is not the main stream ones. Those DJ can be offered money to play artiste songs more often. (I don't know if it's true). I for once won't listen to her song let alone join her fan club. Her fan club likely are all CHC members.
6. Suntec - $310million
This is really a spark that blows up the whole saga. KONG HEE says it was SUN HO who help CHC acquire a stake in Suntec. Samuel Loh (Simon Teoh? Teoh's letter is shown above), a CHC member and private banker, asked for a breakdown of the figure from CHC. After no reply is given, he wrote to the COC for them to investigate the church.
It was annouced that we are co-cowners of suntec city by buying a significant stake in Harmony Fund which have 80% of the suntec city. It was only after much scrutiny, that CHC release a media clarification on 7th March 2010:
"Our Church, through a special purpose investment holding company wholly owned by CHC, has acquired and holds an indirect minority stake in the holding company of Suntec Convention Centre."
Significant stake become minority stakes? Something is not right.
The sum doesn't add up too. Harmony Fund bought into Suntec in 2009 for around 250 million in 2009. A minority stake (max 49.9%) would only work out to 120 million. Why are they quoting 310 million?
When people ask about the details, they refuse to release the details because of NDA agreement with Harmony Fund. Why would such NDA exists? When major stakeholder changes interest, SGX would require the company to make the announcement the next day.
CHC will be moving to Suntec from 19 March 2011 onwards but with 7500 capacity to cater for the new guidelines issued by the authority. All the members are so excited. Put it simply, CHC is only renting suntec after spending so much to rent a place. All these money is after 5 A&R (Arise and Build) which amass 100 million. They will have no choice after putting JW (Jurong West) building as collateral.
Sources said that CHC will pay 46million to a licensee to help find a place, in which 16million is already paid. This licensee is probably AMAC. I though it was SUN HO who help find the place. Why is there to pay a middleman every year for finding Suntec to rent? Simply as that, you want to rent the hall in Suntec, go up to Suntec, check availability, book and pay directly.
7. Simple minded
I ask most of my friend in CHC, they don't even know what is Xtron? Oh boy are they ignorant or just simple-minded when the writings are all on the walls.
Are they going to continue finance 8 more A&R? The good thing is SUN HO adventure has ended. Probably, the money donated would be put to better use now.
8. KONG HEE financial
From 2005, he stopped receiving pay from CHC. His income is from talks and 2 SKIN boutique shops (1 closed down at Marina square). His event company, International Harvest rakes up $410000 in losses. I have doubts about the SKIN shops revenue as 1 closed down. How can he pay SUN's expenses plus his tickets to/fro USA every week? It cost $2-4 k for round tickets to USA.
9. ATTENDANCE INFLATED
One unknown CHC staff revealed that the actually weekly attendance is around 14800. The attendance given by church is around 28000 which causes a hoo-ha. The disparity is so big and I suspect it is intentional to make CHC seen as big. The annual tithes received is much less than NCC (New Creation Church). It suggests that the figure should not be so big as reported. NCC has around 20k members.
There is something not right internally as strives develop.
10. NEW CHURCHES
Darren Tan (ex-CHC pastor) left in Feb 2011 to start Life Unted Church in Aljunied.
Tan Chee Kiang (ex-CHC pastor) left to start City Care Church in JB. (David Yem is there with him).
Latest update is KC Gan has left to join Chee Kiang. He is the main man behind CHC's previous album.
[ CHC's ex-music director David Yem resigned around Dec 2010.]
CHC announcement, Feb 2011 (source)
Questions questions! (source)
*Why did the CHC buy million of $ of unquoted bonds from Xtron, a company that has been losing money since it was formed?
- 1. Because Kong Hee and Sun are the owners of Xtron
- 2. Because KH likes to help the poor
- 3. Because Kong Hee has strong faith that Xtron one day will flourish
- 1. Yes
- 2. No
- 3. Probably – definitely true for Xtron. Xtron accompanies Kong Hee and Sun on all their trips, funded by CHC.
- 1. It went to the licensor
- 2. It went to Sun Ho and Xtron
- 3. It went to charity
# Not true. CHC increased its share in Suntec in July 2012.
- 1. Yes
- 2. No – CHC’ers have unconditional trust in their leader.
- 3. Worst case – CHC goes broke – so better keep on giving.
(use of Building Fund)
*Why did my Snr Pastor pay $46.3 million to the Licensor for simply finding a new place of worship for CHC? Why was the Snr Pastor so generous to give Licensor such a big amount when the Suntec church will not be ready by March 2011 and the usage is non-exclusive and without a tenancy agreement?
- 1. Because he is co-owner of the licensor
- 2. Because he likes to give freely
- 3. Because it is just petty cash
- 1. Because, with the giving and all. he did not expect any financially savvy people amongst his flock
- 2. “Co-owner” – “minority shareholder”: it’s all the same isn’t it?
- 3. Because Kong Hee has the right to change his mind
- 1. Because he did not know
- 2. Because he does not care
- 3. All of the above
- 1. URA restrictions can be bypassed
- 2. There is enough money to move in-and out every Sunday
- 3. CHC presence will de-motivate and scare off exhibitioners
- 1. Because Kong Hee is indirectly involved in Suntec Reit
- 2. Because Kong Hee does not care
- 3. Because Kong Hee believes God will support
- 1. Yes
- 2. Yes
- 3. Yes
# ed. My answer is Yes. Kong Hee, Kevin Dyson and Phil Pringle (Dyson and Pringle are on the CHC Advisory Committee set up in Sep 2010 to improve CHC's
- 1. Yes
- 2. No
- 3. Does it matter how the money eventually lands in Kong Hee’s pockets?
*Is it true that when Sun Ho was offered the contract of USD5 million by Tonos Entertainment in 2005, Tonos Entertainment had already closed down in 1st Sep 2003? So what contract was Sun Ho on, when she went to America?
- 1. It was all funded by Ed Hardy clothes
- 2. It was all funded by Sun herself
- 3. It was all funded by the Lord
- 1. Yes
- 2. No
- 3. What’s the difference between 0,3% and 0.6% of total S'porean population? or 0.001% of all Christians? Still very very small
|Average December CHC service attendance 1989-2010 (source)|
|Average Nov/Dec overall CHC Movement|
service attendance 1989-2010 (source)
|CHC congregation size (source)|
More details on CHC congregation size: here
(answers are now clear)
- 1. Because they suspected abuse of funds
- 2. Because PAP does not like CHC
- 3. It was the Devil’s doing
- 1. Because they enjoy talking to Sun
- 2. Because they have nothing better to do
- 3. Because they suspect foul play
- 1. Because of conflict of interest
- 2. He did not have to – It was his choice
- 3. Because God told him to take a back-seat
The Last 16 Months of My Life
TR Emeritus, March 20, 2010 (source)
The Church said earlier that it would use two floors in Suntec to house a 12,000-seat auditorium for worship services and that it would be used exclusively for its services, except for about five times a year to allow for international conferences or events to be held there.
The stake raised some eyebrows among Singaporeans who questioned if registered charities should be allowed to go into business and if the income collected by CHC through its Suntec rentals would be taxed.
An irate Singaporean Lester Lam wrote to the Straits Times Forum on 11 March 2010 questioning the relevance of giving religious organisations tax-exempt status when many of them own commercial properties and derive rental income from them.
“Should the Government continue to let religious organisations own commercial properties and earn income from rent? After all, the revenue these organisations use for the purchase is tax-exempt in the first place. Suntec City was developed for commercial purposes. With the church’s purchase of the development and its proposal to convert a section of the exhibition space for church use, is it in breach of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s land-use policy?” he asked.
A letter jointly issued by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore explained that “incomes earned by charities are tax-exempt because their main purpose is to provide public benefits through their activities.”
There are no laws against charities being involved in business activities except that they “must be done in the best interest of the charity and not subject the charity’s assets and resources to unacceptable risk.”
The Straits Times article did not reveal the exact questions asked by the Commissioner of Charities to CHC. Its Senior Pastor, Kong Hee could not be reached for comments.
- Suntec Singapore is owned by the ARA Harmony Fund. Stakeholders of the Harmony Fund include Suntec Reit (20%) and other private investors including City Harvest Church.
Executive pastor Aries Zulkarnain made the announcement at a service on Saturday.
In 2010, the church, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Urban Property Investments Limited acquired 20 per cent effective shareholding for an aggregate purchase price of S$43.75 million in Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Last year, it acquired an additional 19.2 per cent for a purchase price of S$54 million.
Together with the acquisition in 2010, the church now has an effective shareholding of 39.2 per cent in Suntec for an aggregate purchase price of S$97.75 million.
Pastor Zulkarnain said the balance 60.8 per cent effective shareholding in the property is held by Suntec Harmony Pte Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Suntec REIT.
He added: "To put it simply, we are co-owners of this property together with Suntec REIT."
Zulkarnain explained that the S$97.75 million forms part of the S$310 million budget that was previously announced to the church.
"The balance amount is for the committed rentals; the optional rentals in the coming years; refundable rental deposits; furniture, fittings and equipment costs, and periodic shifting costs," he said.
The pastor also revealed that initially, with the purchase of this additional stake, the total budget would have reached S$327 million, which is S$17 million above the church's original planned budget of S$310 million for the property.
But this will not be the case.
"We are still able and committed to keep to our original budget of S$310 million because our team has worked very hard to reduce the costs of shifting," said Zulkarnain.
He said CHC's "ownership-and-lease" model uses the share of dividends from the property to fund part of the rental costs for running weekend services.
"We arrived at a budget of S$310 million by calculating the point at which the return of our investments will cover most of the yearly rentals," he explained.
"CHC intends to eventually become self-sustaining in respect to payments of future rentals."
Zulkarnain said that the value of the property is expected to increase following the ongoing Asset Enhancement Initiative that Suntec REIT has embarked on for the convention centre.
Suntec REIT has budgeted S$180 million to carry out upgrading works, which include creating two levels of retail space.
To facilitate this upgrading, CHC will be holding its services for a period of time at Singapore Expo starting September 2012.
Pastor Zulkarnain also had an announcement on the church's 2011 Building Fund campaign.
"For our Building Fund campaign last year, we pledged a total of S$23,640,715," said Zulkarnain. "By the end of the Building Fund period this year, we had collected S$22,687,651. This is a very healthy 96 per cent fulfilment, better than previous years."
The two announcements come a week before the church's annual general meeting.
In a media release, the church said this move is in accordance with the Commissioner of Charities' suggestion that the church reveals developments in its Suntec investments to its congregation.
City Harvest Church's financial statement for the Financial Year ending 31 October 2009 was posted on the Internet around June 2010, but is unfortunately no longer available.
The following extracts from the discussion here in June 2010 provides glimpses of the financial statement.
What bothers me now is the accounts of CHEC and the other companies.
IF it is true that some members of the entourage of Sun Ho in LA is under the payroll of CHEC and other related companies (together with "lending" by the church to these companies), it would very likely be considered as fraud in the court of law.
I asked 2 accounting grads (state: 1 is with honours, the other is Masters) - They agreed that if the above is true, then it is very likely that the CAD will be able to pin it as fraud and misuse of church funds.
They also agree that it is (or may) be a very neat set of creative accounting... But given enough time and manpower (which the CAD has ample supply), the links and relationship between the church, individuals and companies will be uncovered.
Another thing that interests me is note 17.
"... the church signed an 8-year license agreement for $46.3 million payable over a period of 6 months."
I was thinking a lot... $46.3 MILLION!! that's enough to build 1 Jurong West building. And that the licence agreement is only for A MERE 8 years!
What exactly is this $46.3 million for? For the rental of Suntec convention hall?
More ingenious: entering into an 8 year S$46.3 mil licence agreement, payable over a period of 6 months from 1 Oct 2009, just so that the licensor undertakes to procure an acceptable premises for the church's use. As at 31 Oct 2009, the church had already paid S$16 mil in advance.
License agreement executed before 1Oct 2009 can be amended, modified or terminated by mutual consent at a later stage to take into account of impending move to Suntec.
Read carefully the last para " In consideration .....to do so".
This agreement is not realistic or practical.
The licence fee agreement was designed to facilitate the cash outflow to Xtron, so that Xtron could in early 2010 sign that rental agreement with Suntec and pay the advance rental deposit etc. It was creative financing.
Wow! They must have a financial whiz in the membership! Just look at the cash flow statement: they reaped a hefty profit of $72.5 million from disposal of some undisclosed financial assets alone! They also have some interesting debtors - receivables is a humongous $19 million! They pay well too - staff salary and allowances total $8.3 million!
There are 3 executives of the Management Board earning the following salaries
One was paid from $100,000 to $150,000
Another was paid from $150,001 to $200,000
The last one was paid from $200,000 to $250,000
The salaries include basic pay, benefits and CPF contribution.
I wonder who are they. And are these amounts on top of their current salary drawn as employees of the church.
why is there interest income of only $3000, when there is a cash at bank balance of $31,000,000?
that means either:
Something dodgy is happening with the financial statements.
In addition, the board authorised the investment of S$11.4 mil into unquoted bonds. We all know that unquoted bonds means the pricing and realisation recourse are so opaque that one can never be sure if he has bought into a dud! Who recommended the investment? Who was the issuer of such unquoted bonds and hence the beneficiary of the funds? Who approved the investment?
Expenses in respect of Asia Conference -$4.4 million whilst income -$290,000.
CHC's Disinformation on new church building in Jan 2010
$310m building plan for City Harvest
|18 January 2010 | The Straits Times|
by Yen Feng
|CITY Harvest Church has announced a $310 million expansion plan to buy land, and to erect a building that will house shops, restaurants and a 12,000-seat auditorium.|
Founder Kong Hee, 45, said during church services yesterday and last Saturday that the land sale would be completed later this month. He did not specify the location, but said the site would be in the 'central south' district.
He described the site as 'super large'. It is believed the site covers an area as large as three football fields - six times the size of the Protestant church's current home in Jurong West Street 91, which it owns.
'This is truly amazing,' Dr Kong said yesterday at the Singapore Expo, where it has been renting a hall for services. 'Finally, we will have a church in the marketplace, for the marketplace, to penetrate the marketplace.'
The church's plans to incorporate retail elements into its building project follow similar plans announced in 2007 by New Creation Church, another large Christian group in Singapore.
New Creation has teamed up with mall developer CapitaLand Retail to build an 'integrated hub' at Buona Vista. The $1 billion project, when ready in 2012, will house shops, a concert hall and a theatre.
Details of the City Harvest project remain fuzzy. It is not known how many floors the building will have, how much space will be for retail and religious use, or when construction will start and end.
It is also unclear if the church will rope in partners, as New Creation did, to develop the site.
In response to queries from The Straits Times, Reverend Derek Dunn, City Harvest's executive pastor, said yesterday that a non-disclosure agreement prevented him from commenting on the project.
At yesterday's service, Dr Kong said only that there would be 'ample parking', and that the building would have 'eateries, restaurants and world-class facilities'. The news surprised many churchgoers, who cheered and waved their hands.
Last Saturday night, Dr Kong posted a message on his Twitter service that proclaimed: 'Told them the great news. People were laughing, crying, clapping. A new day for City Harvest Church.'
Yesterday, he told the congregation that expansion plans had been germinating since 2005, when the church began renting a hall at Singapore Expo to hold additional services for its growing congregation - now 27,000 strong. The Jurong West church seats only about 2,400.
According to City Harvest financial statements, it spent $3 million on rent from July 2007 to October 2008.
Dr Kong said he had considered 25 potential sites, including the Capitol Theatre at Stamford Road, The Pines Club at Stevens Road and the Toa Payoh Sports Complex, but had found them all unsuitable.
At $310 million, the proposed facilities would cost each member about $11,000 if they divided the amount equally.
Member donations make up more than 95 per cent of the church's annual income.
The church plans to pay for the project over seven to 10 years, although it has set an initial target of $17 million by June.
Members were optimistic, despite the recession, that they would reach the target. They also pointed to how New Creation Church members managed to raise $19 million in just one day last year in March - at a time when banks were failing and millions worldwide were out of jobs.