$1.6m loan to Xtron chief came from his own firm

SINGAPORE - WHEN long-time City Harvest Church member Wahju Hanafi was in desperate need of cash, the church's leaders rode to his rescue within two weeks.

But little did the Indonesian businessman know that the help would come in the form of a loan from his own music production company Xtron Productions.

These details emerged on Tuesday as the state sought again to prove that the church controlled Xtron, which has been accused of helping it to misuse church funds.

City Harvest founder Kong Hee and five of his deputies were charged last year with illegally using about $50 million of the funds to finance Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun's pop music career and to cover this up.

On Tuesday, prosecutors produced e-mail between Mr Hanafi and three of the accused - Xtron accountant Serina Wee, deputy pastor Tan Ye Peng and Kong - to try and show Mr Hanafi's role as Xtron director was cosmetic.

In 2007, he wrote to his mentor Kong to seek spiritual guidance over his financial troubles. By the next weekend, Kong had instructed Tan to speak to him; Tan then arranged about $1.6 million in Xtron loans to him.

Mr Hanafi said he had not realised that the money would come from Xtron.

"You let Pastor Tan help determine how much money to be loaned from Xtron to you, right?" Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng put to Mr Hanafi, to which he replied: "Yes".

Asked whether that meant he had no control over Xtron at the time, Mr Hanafi denied this. "At the end of the day... if Xtron were to lend me money back, to me there's nothing wrong about it because I have a personal guarantee in the company."

He was referring to a personal guarantee he had signed indemnifying Xtron from losses in its Crossover Project, which used Ms Ho's music to evangelise. Xtron managed her from 2003 to 2008.

He added that $674,700 of the loan was his own money. "I gave it to (the church), and then it was refunded and invested into Xtron. It was put into Xtron as a loan, and when my trouble happened, they decided to give me back my own money."

He also brushed off e-mail and minutes of meetings shown in court in which several of the accused had discussed company matters without him.

"They can plan behind my back but the decision still lies with me and (fellow director Choong) Kar Weng," he said of a meeting he had been unaware of, at which several of the accused had discussed people who could run Xtron.

Mr Hanafi also revealed the origins of the Sentosa penthouse he co-owns with Kong. "I normally would bless Pastor Kong every year with a love offering, but that year, I gave him the opportunity to own (the penthouse)," he said.

He had just sold another penthouse there at a profit, and the plan was to flip the property.

Then, the 2008 financial crisis happened. "All of a sudden, the property had no buyers, and we sort of ended up holding it until today," he said.

zengkun@sph.com.sg

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