Two men who allegedly tried to defraud a bank with fake US treasury bonds purported to be worth US$490 million (HK$3.8 billion) claimed they were helping to raise funds for a church, a court heard yesterday. On the first day of their trial, Australian Charles Burke, 77, and Briton Roger Leonard Cox, 58, pleaded not guilty to using fake US bonds with a face value of US$150 million and possessing further fakes with a total face value of US$340 million. The men, claiming to be from a company called Manchester Capital, which Burke said was registered in the Virgin Islands but operated from Hong Kong, arranged to meet representatives from American investment bank JP Morgan Chase's Hong Kong office on April 24 to open an account, prosecutor Fanny Wong told the District Court. Burke had said he was the chief executive officer of the company. Upon hearing the details of the proposed transaction, JP Morgan Chase regional manager and vice-president Peter Hazelwood had contacted the Commercial Crime Bureau, Ms Wong said. Mr Hazelwood said that at the meeting, which was attended by a representative of the bureau, Burke told them the bonds were entrusted to him by the Church of Oversoul in the United States and that they had been authenticated in Britain. Burke said SembCorp, a major conglomerate owned partly by the Singapore Government, was a client of his, which Mr Hazelwood told the court raised his suspicions further. The defendants wanted to pledge the bonds as loan collateral and borrow against them on behalf of the church, Mr Hazelwood said. They claimed they had 'billions' more in such bonds. The trial continues on Monday before Judge Derek Pang Wai-cheong.