City Harvest trial: $11 million 'routed through several firms'

City Harvest trial: $11 million 'routed through several firms'

SINGAPORE - WHEN City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee (in photo above) and his deputies wanted back the $11 million that the church invested in Firna bonds, the company owner said he did not have the money.

So they allegedly took about $11 million from the church's own investment manager AMAC Capital Partners, routed it through several companies, then put it back into CHC's coffers.

This gave the illusion that the church's bonds in Firna had been repaid, the prosecution alleged on Thursday, in what could prove to be a pivotal moment in the widely watched criminal case against Kong and five of his deputies.

They are accused of conspiring to cheat the mega-church of $50 million partly through sham bonds issued by Firna and Xtron Productions. The money was allegedly used to finance the music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun and to cover up its misuse.

To back this up, the state on Thursday produced an e-mail from one of the accused, accountant Serina Wee, to Mr Wahju Hanafi, a long-time church member and owner of glassware manufacturer Firna.

In it, Wee outlined how AMAC would finance Firna's repayment of the church's bond money. She even detailed how the money would move from one company to another, and the dates on which the transactions would be done.

Asked whether these transactions had been carried out according to the timeline, Mr Hanafi told the court: "I think it's almost there."

The 53-year-old Indonesian businessman added that the "flow of funds" had been arranged by AMAC director Chew Eng Han, another of the accused.

Chew was a church board member but stepped down when AMAC became the church's investment manager.

"I told them, if you want to do it, you guys just have to provide the flow of the funds, because I cannot come up with the (money)," Mr Hanafi said.

He admitted he did not know why Wee and Chew were eager to have the church's investment in his firm's bonds, which had a maturity of three years, repaid before the first year was up.

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