CHC trial: Indonesian tycoon reveals inner workings of megachurch

Indonesian businessman Wahju Hanafi arriving in court on 6 September 2013.

His children begged to go to church every Sunday, he said.

The reason: They got gifts every time they showed up.

Indonesian tycoon Wahju Hanafi on Tuesday provided a glimpse into the workings of City Harvest Church (CHC).

It was his seventh day on the witness stand during the trial of the City Harvest church leaders.

In re-examination by Deputy Public Prosecutor(DPP) Tan Kiat Pheng, Mr Wahju said that the church spent about $2 million a month on expenses, including chartering buses for churchgoers and buying gifts for the children's church on Sundays.

"I remember my kids always come (sic) back with something," he said, before going on about how the church has changed his life.

In response, DPP Tan told Mr Wahju to stay focused and answer the question, instead of "rambling on (and) on achieving whatever agenda you have".

The Indonesian tycoon later referred to church founder Kong Hee as having good business acumen too, because he could start a church of 25 members and bring it up to 33,000.

"I don't think he's (that) dumb as well, otherwise he won't be bringing the church to where it is today," he said.

Mr Wahju also elaborated on why he didn't want to find out how the church spent its money even though he has given millions since 1998.

 

"I don't care what the pastors or the church use, you know, because I said, otherwise, we will be disappointed, and then we might not receive the teaching from what the pastors is teaching us because we already have this disappointment in our hearts."

While the tycoon - who on Monday said he has a net worth of US$400 million as of last year - said he still travels economy class on planes now, he alluded to the lifestyles of some of the church leaders.

He said: "You know, they might go on the, you know, whatever class of airfares they go. I don't care."

Towards the end of the morning session, DPP Tan crossed swords with several of the defence counsels, including Senior Counsels Michael Khoo and N Sreenivasan, who represent former church member Chew Eng Han and deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, respectively.

'Secret letter'

This was especially when Mr Wahju was pressed on matters relating to the "secret letter" from the church - a document that stated CHC would convert and sell back Mr Wahju's 40 per cent shares in glass factory Firna "at a nominal value of US$1" if he did not return the money when the bonds matured.

Yesterday Mr Wahju offered yet another reason for redeeming the bonds early: To show that he had the financial clout to do so, rather than rely on the church or Xtron, the company that used to manage singer Sun Ho.

Quizzed on why he did not wait for the bond to mature to pay back the money, Mr Wahju said: "I just want to show people my muscle, that I have the muscle to pay it back, that I have the properties and business to sustain my own, commercially."

But he had offered different reasons previously.

Sometime in March 2010, an anonymous person threatened to expose the Hanafis' cosy relations with various church-linked entities - a move that got church pastor and founder Kong Hee "very stressed".

In an e-mail dated 26 March, 2010, Mr Wahju wrote to wife Wei Wei: "Now they want to find quick cash to pay us so I can pay back bonds issued to FNG (Firna)."

Mr Wahju had also told Mr Sreenivasan that "the church needed the money because they bought Suntec".

When DPP Tan pressed him about giving different versions, Mr Wahju said he was simply agreeing with Mr Sreenivasan that money can also be used to redeem Suntec.

"Whatever they (the church) want to use with the money after I return it is their wish," he said.

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