Tycoon wanted to give real estate as 'love gift' to Kong Hee

SINGAPORE - THERE was talk of love gifts like a Sentosa condo, expensive weddings and sponsorships so pop singer Ho Yeow Sun could receive bonuses.

All these emerged in court on Tuesday as the trial of the City Harvest six accused of using sham bonds to finance Ms Ho's career continued.

The prosecution pulled up dramatic details in e-mails to show the relationship between City Harvest Church (CHC) and production company Xtron Productions.

LOVE GIFT

Indonesian tycoon Wahju Hanafi (in photo above) wanted to give CHC founder Kong Hee something different. So he came up with the idea of offering real estate, namely an Oceanfront condo in Sentosa, around 2007.

Mr Wahju said: "I normally bless Pastor Kong every year with a love offering and I was thinking this year, that instead of me giving him a love offering, maybe I give him the opportunity to own this business (the Sentosa property)."

The former director of Xtron - the company that used to manage Ms Ho - owned a number of units in Sentosa and had made a lot of money previously.

For example, he sold a penthouse there for more than $5 million.

He thought Kong might like to make some money for the church.

"I mean, our pastors are also business-minded as well," Mr Wahju had said when explaining why the church had decided to charge him 7 per cent interest for a $674,700 loan.

So he told Kong to buy one unit at $1,800 per sq ft. Since Mr Wahju had previously sold his Sentosa penthouse for $2,300 per sq ft, that would work out to an upfront profit of $500 per sq ft, he reasoned.

With a bank loan, each man would pay about $17,000 monthly.

Then trouble happened when the economic downturn came in 2008 and they couldn't sell the unit. They are still stuck with it, Mr Wahju said.

A check online showed a 4,510 sq ft Oceanfront penthouse in Sentosa going for about $11.3 million.

FINANCIAL TROUBLE

When Mr Wahju later poured out his financial troubles to Kong, the CHC pastor said he would help.

And more than $1.5 million was given to the Indonesian. But it didn't come from the church. It was from Xtron.

But how could a representative of the church decide to lend money on the company's behalf, the prosecution questioned.

All this happened in late 2007 after Mr Wahju's company, PT The First National Glassware (Firna), ran into cash-flow problems.

He also needed to pay for his eldest daughter's wedding, which cost US$500,000 (S$639,000).

There were also bonuses he needed to pay to about 1,700 Firna workers because of Hari Raya. They traditionally got 2½ months worth of wages.

In all, Mr Wahju was short of about US$2.5 million.

And so he turned to Kong, a man he called his "mentor". Kong is also Ms Ho's husband.

In an e-mail reply pulled up by the prosecution, Kong said: "When I told Sun of your e-mail. The first thing she said was, 'We must HELP Wahju immediately!'"

The couple roped in church pastor Tan Ye Peng, one of the accused, to speak to Mr Wahju.

This led to an e-mail from former Xtron finance manager Serina Wee telling Mr Wahju that about $1.5 million was on its way to him.

While $990,000 was interest-free, the remaining $674,700 was at 7 per cent interest.

This was the same amount Mr Wahju had given to the church-building fund in 2003. It was later taken out and converted into an investment into Xtron.

At the time of Mr Wahju's "loan", Xtron was also going through funding issues and needed money for the Crossover Project.

In spite of the fact that he was a director of Xtron, Mr Wahju said he didn't know where the loan was coming from.

"I had no choice at that time. I need the money so I just have to use up the money first and, you know, sort it out in January or February," he said.

BONUS GIFTS

Earlier in the day, the court heard how CHC got people to donate money so Ms Ho could receive bonuses.

Former finance manager Serina Wee had e-mailed Kong's second-in-command Tan Ye Peng, in March 2007, saying they were still short of more than $110,000 - after Mr Wahju had sponsored close to half a million dollars to cover the bonuses and advances given to Ms Ho.

So she drew up a list of sponsors who had given money in 2006.

"We can explain to them that because of public scrutiny, we don't want Xtron to be seen giving money to her beyond her salary," Wee had written.

"The directors of Xtron wanted to bless her during her birthday, for example, and since we have individual sponsors, it will look better on Xtron's accounts if the sponsors indicate they are giving to her personally."

She suggested the sponsors write a letter to Xtron, stating their giving was meant for Ms Ho personally.

tnp@sph.com.sg

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