In recent court proceedings for the City Harvest Church (CHC) trial involving the six accused of Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) and falsification of accounts, the question arose as to how the investigation in 2010 was triggered and what were the exact complaints of the informer. These questions arose as the defence lawyers’ cross examined the prosecution witness Kevin Han, who led the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) investigation.
In July 2012, not long after the charges were made against the accused, one of the accused’s lawyer requested from Mr. Han a copy of the FIR. This is the official report made to the police by an informer who suspects someone of committing certain wrongdoing. The FIR contains specific allegations which form the basis for the police to conduct its investigations. In this case, the FIR apparently alleged falsified accounting.
Upon receiving the request for FIR, the Attorney General of Chambers (AGC) had replied on behalf of CAD and sent the lawyer what was supposed to be the FIR logged in 3 May 2010 by Mr. Han himself. In court last week (28/01/2014 to 29/01/2014), Mr. Han admitted that the first FIR was lodged in 2005 and it was a Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) lodged by a financial institution. The defence lawyer then questioned Mr. Han why did he then produce the 2010 document instead. Upon further questioning, Mr. Han said that shortly after sending that document, he had consulted with the AGC and decided that the document was not the FIR. The lawyer then questioned why wasn’t that then subsequently communicated to him, as the accused have the legal right to see the actual FIR.
Upon further questioning, Mr. Han then said the actual FIR that related to the charges currently being made out against the accused was actually lodged in August 2008 (Mr. Han clarified on 29/01/2014) and not 2005 (Mr. Han said on 28/01/2014). When asked to produce it, he and the Prosecutor said it was also a STR and hence privileged information which was protected by law from being revealed. Then it was asked if the CAD received a report filed by the Commissioner Of Charities (COC) to the police and he said yes, and the defence lawyer pointed out that the COC filing was actually announced publicly in 31 May 2013 (SPF Media Release) when the accused were arrested. When asked when was that COC report filed, Mr Han initially said sometime in May 2010. Then when asked if it was before or after his appointment in 30 April 2010 as lead investigator, he said it was before. Hence it had to be in April and not May, as Mr Han had initially said.
When it was put to Mr. Han that the COC report was the FIR, he said no, he didn’t agree. In the end, it could not be determined with certainty whether the FIR was the 2010 one lodged by Mr Han, or the 2008 STR, or the 2005 STR, or the COC report. There seemed to be confusion, which wasn’t resolved.
One of the defence lawyers also questioned that if the 2008 STR was the FIR which triggered the investigation, then how could it be possible that the financial institution which lodged it could have even suspected that there was falsified accounting in CHC, as it is not possible for the financial institution to look into CHC’s accounting entries in the first place.
Another alarming question came up during cross examination of Mr. Han. When the accused were first called up in 2010 for questioning by the CAD, they were given cautioned that they were alleged to have falsified accounts. But subsequently they were charged with CBT. The defence lawyers questioned why were the accused not told they were suspected of CBT as well. One defence lawyer raised a judge’s ruling in past cases which pointed to the importance of the FIR being made known to the accused right from the beginning of the investigations so as to enable them to provide the right explanations. The judge said “I’m of the view that the common law right of the accused to inspect the first information report arises from the duty of the police to inform the accused the reasons for his arrest so as to enable the accused if he so wishes to explain his conduct as alleged in the first information which on the fact of it constitutes the offence.”
The accuracy of the FIR is an important factor for the accused to defend themselves during the investigation process as well as during the court trial.