Loan guarantee a story made up by Kong, says DPP

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Sept 10, 2014

Kong said that when the CAD started investigations, he did a lot of soul-searching and wanted to come clean with the CAD and church members.
Kong said that when the CAD started investigations, he did a lot of soul-searching and wanted to come clean with the CAD and church members. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Indonesian businessman Wahju Hanafi's personal guarantee to pay for Ho Yeow Sun's album expenses was a story made up by City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee, the prosecution said yesterday.

The entire story was part of an elaborate scheme to justify putting money back into the hole left by bond proceeds which were used to fund her career. Mr Hanafi was "simply a conduit" for money which was previously used to fund the Crossover Project to be put back into the church's building fund.

But Kong, who was cross-examined by Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong yesterday, disagreed, insisting that Mr Hanafi's guarantee was real.

To prove its case, the prosecution submitted a series of BlackBerry messages between church fund manager Chew Eng Han and Xtron Productions director Choong Kar Weng.

In the messages, Chew had asked Mr Choong: "How are we going to pay back? Have they thought about it?"

Chew also asked who would be the "official" borrower, to which Mr Choong replied: "Should be Wahju, right?"

Chew then said: "I don't know if that has changed. Things have changed now because the ability to repay is more affected now. As long as Wahju is willing and is okay..."

Mr Choong finished the exchange with: "Yah, we must agree first."

Earlier, the prosecution had questioned the need for a back-to-back guarantee signed by Kong and three others, including deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and Chew, for Mr Hanafi in 2010.

Despite Kong insisting that Mr Hanafi had given him a verbal personal guarantee in 2002, a written agreement was signed only in 2010, backdated to 2007.

Kong had earlier confirmed that there was no such guarantee prior to 2010.

Kong replied: "I can only explain to you based on what was told to me, and what was told to me at the material time was that pastor Wahju is going to make good the album expenses... Should we all just encourage him, to let him know that we are standing together with him and, if need be, we will also provide financial support.

"And with that, I say 'yes', because this is also our mission, and Wahju has been so generous all these years."

DPP Ong concluded by saying that Mr Hanafi's personal guarantee was "for show".

The real reason for Kong to sign the back-to-back guarantee was because Mr Hanafi, when asked to stand as guarantor in 2010, needed an assurance that he was not going to be left paying the debts, said DPP Ong.

This is because he was actually "just letting his name" be used as the guarantor for the Crossover Project, said DPP Ong.

The prosecutor added that Kong deliberately concealed the church's money being used to purchase Xtron and Firna bonds to finance his wife's career.

But Kong told the court that by the time the investigations were started by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), he did "a lot of soul-searching".

"So, I wanted to come clean with the CAD. And I probably felt that, why don't I just come clean with the members as well...

"Not because I felt that we have done anything illegal or wrong in the past, but this is consistent with my mindset and my attitude at that point in time," said Kong.

The prosecution completed its cross-examination of Kong by putting it to him that he had engaged in a series of lies and deceptions over the years to conceal and facilitate the unauthorised use of the church's building fund by him and his co-accused Tan, Chew, Serina Wee and John Lam.

The trial continues today.

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