City Harvest trial: Wahju who?

Mr Wahju Hanafi, the Indonesian businessman.

SINGAPORE - City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee has written about him.

And his name has been popping up in court proceedings over the last few days - though he has yet to take the witness stand.

During the ongoing trial in which Kong and five others are accused of misusing more than $50 million of church funds - $24 million to fund singer Ho Yeow Sun's singing career and another $26.6 million to cover that amount - both the prosecution and defence have mentioned Mr Wahju Hanafi's name repeatedly.

SUPPORTER

The Indonesian has multiple links with the church. He joined CHC in the early 1990s, Kong wrote in a 2008 article in the church newsletter.

Mr Wahju owns Ultimate Assets, the company that has managed Kong's pop singer-wife Ho Yeow Sun since 2008. Ms Ho was managed by Xtron Productions previously and Mr Wahju is a former Xtron director.

He was so touched after attending Ms Ho's concert in 2002 that he pledged to support the Crossover Project - a church mission to reach out to non- Christians through music, current Xtron director Choong Kar Weng, 41, said on Thursday.

"In 2003, he (Wahju) made a video saying he would support and fund the project," Mr Choong said.

Mr Wahju signed a personal guarantee, agreeing to indemnify Xtron against any losses from the project. "Whatever he said has been consistent with my understanding," Mr Choong said.

Mr Wahju and his wife had previously donated to CHC's building fund. In 2004, they had requested a refund of their building fund donation, which would then be put into the Crossover Project. CHC agreed.

BUSINESSMAN

Mr Wahju has business interests spanning continents, from California in the US to Cape Town in South Africa.

He has a supermarket chain, Super Value Stores, in Papua New Guinea. He started the first retail outlet in 1986 at age 26. The supermarket chain has more than 1,700 people on its payroll and is the wholesaler for brands like Puma and Indofood.

"People find it hard to believe that we are one of the biggest companies in Papua New Guinea because half the time, I'm not even there," Mr Wahju told Harvest Times in 2005.

His wife is based in Melbourne, Australia, where "she handles the properties", he previously said.

FRIEND AND INVESTOR

He told The New Paper last year from Papua New Guinea that he had known Kong for "over 20 years" and they were friends.

When Xtron had to return $40 million to the church under an advanced rental agreement, Mr Wahju chipped in with a contribution.

The balance was borne by church members like Kong and another accused, Tan Ye Peng, who sold his house to raise the money because they would not want the church to bear losses.

It was not stated how much money Kong and Tan forked out.

Mr Wahju also runs Indonesian company PT The First National Glassware, known as Firna in Jakarta.

The church had invested money - in the form of bonds - in Firna and Xtron.

The prosecution is trying to show that the accused had planned to move millions of dollars through sham bond investments, which were financed using the church's monies through a series of "round-tripping" transactions (by falsifying the church's accounts to make it seem like these bonds were "redeemed").

CONDO CO-OWNER

Mr Wahju and Kong were registered as the joint owners of a Sentosa Cove penthouse.

He had confirmed with TNP last year that he had a Sentosa property at Ocean Drive then.

'Church needed to be discreet about Crossover Project'

The Crossover Project - a church mission that aims to use pop music for evangelism - was part of City Harvest Church's (CHC) cultural mandate to penetrate all aspects of society, including pop culture and business.

To inspire others, members' success stories were also celebrated and talked about.

Church founder Kong Hee's singer-wife Ho Yeow Sun fronted the Crossover Project. Xtron Productions, Ms Ho's former management company, had promoted her and the project.

'Nothing wrong'

Xtron director and church member Choong Kar Weng, 41, told defence lawyer N. Sreenivasan (representing accused Tan Ye Peng, Kong's second-incommand) that there was nothing wrong about the company furthering the mission of the church.

"As long as it doesn't jeopardise Xtron interests, I'm happy to do so," he said.

When re-examined by DPP Ong on Thursday, Mr Choong testified that the church needed to be discreet in the Crossover Project.

He said that if it were seen to be closely related to the church, non-Christians would not "readily accept the message".

However, DPP Ong highlighted excerpts from a book made to commemorate the 10 years of the project. It mentioned Ms Ho's role in it.

Citing an example, he said that the book stated: "The methodology of the Crossover Project was executed with great success and Sun's pop music ministry made a tremendous impact on Christiandom in Asia."

When DPP Ong asked Mr Choong if he would describe this line as being discreet about the singer's pop music and the evangelical mission, the latter replied: "No."

The Xtron director said: "This book came about when the Crossover Project has stopped. Whether it would continue in the future, I'm not sure. I'm not in a position to tell right now... It's nothing to do with the discreetness."



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