Firna boss took orders on use of bond money

SINGAPORE - POP singer Ho Yeow Sun was supposed to get a $2.2 million apartment in New York to live in while she was recording her music album there. Her United States manager Justin Herz was also to get millions of dollars in church funds to boost her US career.

All of this would have come from $11 million of sham bonds issued by glassware manufacturer Firna and paid for through the church's building fund, prosecutors claimed on Wednesday.

Producing e-mail after e-mail, the prosecution grilled Firna owner and long-time church member Wahju Hanafi, 53, on why he was taking instructions from one of the accused, accountant Serina Wee, on how to spend the church's bond investment money.

For instance, Wee had written to Mr Hanafi in one e-mail that US$500,000 (S$637,000) was to be transferred to Mr Herz in December 2008 "for the album and publicity expenses".

The message, capitalised, underlined and in large font, read: "This has to be done by 22 Dec. Kindly forward me the transfer receipt once it is done."

The prosecution also used e-mails exchanged between several of the accused to make its case that Mr Hanafi and his companies were puppets for the six accused. The companies referred to were Firna and Ultimate Assets, Ms Ho's Singapore manager.

"Do you know how the accounting and banking is going to work for Ultimate Assets and Firna?" Wee had asked fellow accused Chew Eng Han in an e-mail, to which he replied: "(Wahju) has a UBS banker to take instructions for Ultimate Assets. But you got to be the one really giving instructions, so ask Wahju to inform UBS about you operating the account."

But Mr Hanafi insisted that it was he who called the shots.

"It's my money," he said repeatedly, adding that he had refused to help buy the $2.2 million apartment as he needed the money more than Ms Ho did.

"It is my will, it is my choice, whether I want to buy somebody a house or I don't buy somebody a house."

But when he was taken through Wee's instructions for the bond money, he admitted to following several of them, but said he had done so because he had agreed to sponsor the Crossover Project.

He denied that the Firna bonds had been issued to finance Ms Ho's career, saying that the money for the Crossover-related transactions came from $7 million he got from his business in Papua New Guinea, where he is based.

The prosecutor's line of questioning seemed to have taken a toll on Mr Hanafi, who appeared worn down by on Wednesday afternoon.

Sounding exasperated at one point, he said he had already answered one of the prosecution's questions during his questioning by the Commercial Affairs Department.

"I was threatened (by CAD) to admit wrongdoings, and I was told that all the other accused had admitted guilty and I was asked to admit that I have done wrong here."

The judge heard him out, then said: "I don't see how this is relevant to the (prosecutor's) question."

Exchange shows how funds were controlled

E-MAIL produced in court yesterday shed light on how several of the accused in the City Harvest Church (CHC) trial controlled the $11 million that the church invested in bonds issued by Indonesian businessman Wahju Hanafi's company, Firna.


MR HANAFI asks if his Indonesian glassware firm Firna should pay about $16,000 in legal fees for the bond agreement. One of the accused, former CHC investment manager Chew Eng Han, sends this reply: "...Firna 'pays' but of course in the end it is us who will take care of the repayment of the bonds when it matures... just as for the Crossover costs."

Chew instructs former church finance manager Serina Wee, another of the accused, to draft a letter of assurance to Mr Hanafi's father-in-law, Mr Tjandra Kusuma, a Firna shareholder. Part of the contract allows the church to convert the bonds to shares in the company and this did not sit well with Mr Kusuma.

Chew writes: "Wahju's father-in-law will not sign the... consent... unless we give him written assurance that CHC will... sell back shares to them at a nominal value of $1. This is a secret letter only between CHC and Firna."


IN AN e-mail to fellow accused Tan Ye Peng and Chew, asking if they should charge Mr Hanafi interest on transfers he made under his Firna and Ultimate Assets bank account, Wee writes: "So do I treat the investment gains as belonging to us or his personal (use) because technically he is using our money."


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