City Harvest trial: Document 'suggests witness not truthful'

It was a scheme which seemed to show that City Harvest Church's $11 million investment in glassware company Firna was nothing more than a sham.

But when the company owner Wahju Hanafi claimed he was unaware of this plan until much later, the prosecution produced a document seized from his father-inlaw's home which suggested he was not truthful.

This was just one of several inconsistencies which the State tried to expose on Tuesday as it turned on prosecution witness Mr Hanafi in the trial of church founder Kong Hee and five of his deputies over the alleged misuse of $50 million in church funds.

Part of this money was allegedly used to fund the music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun.

Since last Friday, Mr Hanafi agreed with defence lawyers that several of the church's allegedly suspect transactions were above board. One key transaction involved the church's investment in Firna bonds. The agreement in 2008 gave the church the right to convert the bonds to 40 per cent of the Indonesian company.

A letter signed by John Lam Leng Hung, one of the accused, promised to sell back the shares at just US$1 (S$1.30) if this happened.

The prosecution believes this assurance, which weakened the church's financial position, was used to persuade Mr Hanafi's father-in-law, who part-owned Firna then, to agree to the bond sale.

Mr Hanafi maintained that he did not see the letter until a year after the bond agreement.

But prosecutors told Mr Hanafi that the police had seized a copy of the letter, dated before the time of the agreement, from his fatherin- law's home here, where Mr Hanafi had stayed while he was in town.

On whether he saw this copy, Mr Hanafi, 53, said: "I don't remember. It could have been my wife who received it, my maid - we have three maids at home."

He also gave a third and new reason as to why in 2010, he repaid church-linked Xtron Productions soon after it invested in a separate tranche of Firna bonds. "I wanted to show people I had the muscle to pay (the money) back," he said on Tuesday.

But last week, Mr Hanafi agreed with the defence when it suggested that the church needed the money to buy a stake in Suntec Singapore.

Meanwhile, in a 2010 e-mail to his wife, he revealed that Xtron needed the money back quickly as "an anonymous person" had sent a letter to the church threatening "to open up all our connection with Xtron and Sun (Ho's music) project".

Earlier on Tuesday, defence lawyers argued that church leaders worked out the numbers before investing in Ms Ho's career via her management agency Xtron. It was noted how church leaders came up with a "worst-case scenario" where her album revenues were only a third of what was projected. This would result in a shortfall of $3.4 million in the church's coffers, which Mr Hanafi, an Xtron director at the time, said on Tuesday could easily be repaid.

Mr Hanafi also said Kong was not involved in the five drawdowns of a $13 million loan from the church to Xtron. He added that Serina Wee, another of the accused, performed only administrative duties and was not intimately involved with financial decisions involving Xtron.

zengkun@sph.com.sg

twong@sph.com.sg


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