City Harvest trial: Wahju's 3 fears

Wahju Hanafi

SINGAPORE - As things started to unravel, church members got nervous, e-mail exchanges produced in court on Thursday showed. Indonesia tycoon Wahju Hanafi, who was being questioned by the prosecution for the fourth day, was also concerned about three issues. The prosecution continued to produce e-mails containing shocking revelations.

1 Of being found out

SINGAPORE - Some time in March 2010, an anonymous person threatened to expose the Hanafis' cosy relations with various church-linked entities.

This got church pastor and founder Kong Hee "very stressed".

Mr Wahju said, in an e-mail to his wife, Wei Wei: "Now they want to find quick cash to pay us so I can pay back (Xtron Productions) bonds issued to FNG".

Xtron Productions used to manage pop singer Sun Ho and Mr Wahju was a director.

He also owns FNG (PT The First National Glassware, also known as Firna).

Kong and five other City Harvest Church (CHC) members, including former church board member Chew Eng Han and former finance manager Serina Wee, are accused of using sham bonds to finance the career of Sun Ho, aka Ho Yeow Sun, who is Kong's wife.

$12 million needed

The e-mail thread revealed that the group, which Mr Wahju says includes Chew and Wee, needed $12 million to redeem the bonds so they could "move on with our business".

It also came to light that one John Lim was suspected to be the anonymous person because he previously questioned Xtron's relations with the church when auditing CHC.

"Well, the anonymous person may be the same hacker that is hacking our website now," Mr Wahju said, referring to the recent hacking of Ms Ho's site.

The hacker, who goes by the name The Messiah, had threatened, in a post on another website, to leak personal data of City Harvest supporters because he claimed his hacking group, Anonymous, takes issue with the church.

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2 Of suspicious activities

After May 31, 2010, when the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) called in senior church members for investigations, Mr Wahju decided to borrow money from the banks, rather than CHC or Xtron Productions.

"I just don't want to get into saying that I'm borrowing from the church or I'm borrowing from Xtron.

"I just make it official from the bank. It's just very straightforward," he said to explain why he redeemed Xtron bonds.

But he had been unsettled about the transfer of funds as early as 2008.

In an e-mail then, he told the accused Tan Ye Peng and Chew: "We can't just draw down money same day as it comes in, as I have explained before, it will be too suspicious, like money laundering."

In his testimony earlier this week, Mr Wahju said he had been worried that money transfers from the church to Xtron and later Ultimate Assets, a trust company owned by him and his wife, would be seen as money laundering by the authorities.

In bond transactions, large amounts of money are moved in and out of bank accounts within a short time.

Since the fall of financial services firm Lehman Brothers in the 2008 global financial crisis, banks have been very strict about monitoring transactions, Mr Wahju said.

3 Not enough money

Mr Wahju signed a personal guarantee for Xtron Productions in 2007, with no limit stated.

That meant he would be liable and pay for all losses chalked up by that company, which was then managing pop singer Sun Ho.

The Indonesian tycoon signed the agreement the same year he took over glass factory Firna - and its multi-million-dollar debt.

He was confident his assets would be enough back-up, Mr Wahju told the court on Thursday.

But he was only prepared to give the church about $1 million every year because he was "not printing money", he had said earlier during the trial. Why the guarantee then?

Giving is a different matter from the guarantee, he said.

Mr Wahju said: "Guarantee is just to help the church go through what they need."That's why he made several guarantees, including one for CHC's Jurong West building.

So why did four church members, including CHC founder Kong Hee, have to sign another guarantee in 2007 for Mr Wahju?

Did he request for it because he did not have enough money to pay for any losses that he would have to indemnify under the first guarantee?

Mr Wahju said it was to reassure his father-inlaw that his 20 per cent Firna shares would not be affected since the guarantors had to help Mr Wahju pay.

The four guarantors were the four most influential people in the church, Mr Wahju said.

They would at least have the money if it was needed.

For instance, Xtron director and property developer Koh Siow Ngea "has the most money among the four" while "Kong has properties, maybe worth a couple of millions", he said.

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