City Harvest trial: E-mails 'show funding for Ho's career'

Prosecution traces how $6 million of church money was moved around

For the first time since the City Harvest trial started last week, prosecutors have produced evidence to show that $6 million of church funds purportedly went into paying for pop singer Ho Yeow Sun's music career.

The prosecution presented an e-mail sent by one of the accused, accountant Serina Wee, to Indonesian businessman Wahju Hanafi that came with a timeline showing the "round-tripping" that City Harvest Church leaders have been accused of.

The timeline, from Oct 5 to 31, 2009, supposedly showed how money was meant to flow from one church-linked company to another, before $6 million was eventually to be transferred to Mr Justin Herz of JH Music after Oct 31.

JH Music is a production house registered in California, and Mr Herz was engaged to promote Ms Ho's pop career in the US.

In the e-mail, Wee told Mr Wahju to "keep to the timeline" of transactions. Mr Wahju is a former director of Xtron Productions, and director of Ultimate Assets and Firna, companies that allegedly were involved in this series of transactions.

This high-profile trial involves six church leaders, including founder Kong Hee, who allegedly funnelled $24 million of the church's funds into sham bond investments to further the career of his wife, Ms Ho, between 2007 and 2008. They were also said to have tried to cover that up by devising transactions of $26.6 million, known as "round-tripping".

The prosecution also produced another e-mail from a second witness, Ms Angie Koh, a former accounts assistant at the church, to Mr Wahju. In it, she had asked him to settle certain transactions so that the money would "reach Justin in two weeks".

"What does Justin have to do with the drawdown of bonds from Firna?" asked Deputy Public Prosecutor Mavis Chionh. Firna was one of the companies which the church allegedly bought "sham bonds" from. Ms Koh said she "could not remember".

Besides this payment to Mr Herz, the prosecution yesterday also produced other e-mail messages which alluded to its case that the said transactions were part of a deliberately planned scheme.

One was an e-mail from Wee to church finance manager Sharon Tan - also an accused - where Wee said she did not want her company Advante to be reflected in "any of the transactions", so that "auditors won't link us".

Another e-mail from Wee to Mr Wahju shows Wee instructing him to complete certain transactions in the "soonest possible timeframe", so that Mr Wahju's bank would not "raise any questions".Mr Wahju, in his e-mail reply, said: "All these costs are to be borne by Xtron or whatever company. We are just instruments to make things happen."

Defence counsel, however, argued that all the transactions were above board. Senior Counsel Kannan Ramesh pointed out that Xtron's auditor had looked at the bond subscriptions and found nothing amiss.

Senior Counsel N.Sreenivasan also said the law firm drawing up the bond documents had raised no alarm either, and added that Xtron was a profit-making company with several sources of income.

But the prosecution countered by showing the church bought bonds from Xtron within the two years that it had reported losses. Based on financial statements, Xtron made a net loss of about $2.4 million for the financial year ending Dec 31, 2007, and about $9 million for the financial period of January to October 2008.

The trial continues today.

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