CITY HARVEST TRIAL

Kong tried to hide Xtron-church links, says prosecution

City Harvest founder Kong Hee said he tried to pay off the cost of his wife's music album as he was trying to avoid any "misperception".
City Harvest founder Kong Hee said he tried to pay off the cost of his wife's music album as he was trying to avoid any "misperception".

CITY Harvest founder Kong Hee wanted to hide the church's transactions with Xtron to avoid questions from the authorities, the prosecution said yesterday.

"The reason you were trying to sweep the transactions with Xtron under the carpet is because that's what you do if your house is dirty and a visitor might be turning up unexpectedly, correct?" asked Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong, as the trial resumed with Kong continuing to be cross-examined.

The prosecution argues that the senior pastor did not want Xtron to be linked to the church.

Kong, together with five others, faces various charges of allegedly misusing some $50 million of church funds to boost his wife Ho Yeow Sun's music career and cover up the alleged misuse.

Kong disagreed with the DPP, and said he had "asked a scrutiniser of the house" to check the house and the scrutiniser had said the house "was not dirty".

"I just didn't want any visitor to come," Kong said.

Kong disputed the DPP's characterisation of the scenario as sounding "so sinister".

"What we wanted to do is that we wanted to avoid any misperception or misconception, from the authorities," said Kong.

The court heard that in March 2010, Xtron's funding of Ms Ho's secular music career, which was purportedly part of the church's Crossover Project, drew flak online.

In response to allegations that the church's funds had been misused in bankrolling this project, Kong sought to pay off the cost of his wife's album which had essentially been funded through two companies, Xtron and Firna.

"Because the bloggers were just relentless in their attack on Xtron, on the Crossover, and the album is going to take a while to earn back all the money," said Kong.

He therefore asked his close friend, Indonesian businessman Wahju Hanafi, to pay off the album's cost.

Kong said he was "afraid, or concerned, that the authorities may also come in and start questioning the church or Xtron".

However, he did not deny the prosecution's assertion that he had spent "$13 million through the Xtron bonds and $11 million through the Firna bonds on the Crossover Project".

Nor did he deny he knew the building fund was short of $20 million that it would get back only when the album became "profitable".

Earlier, the prosecution had sought to prove how Firna bonds were in fact shams as it was the plan that church funds would be channelled to pay the interest on the bonds.

Kong disagreed and said there was every intention by Firna to fulfil its obligation to the church.

The prosecution is expected to wrap up its cross-examination of Kong today.

joycel@sph.com.sg