Kong tried to wipe out links between City Harvest and Xtron: Prosecution

In response, Kong said that he had only done so to avoid misconceptions, as speculation had been rife online about church funds being siphoned into Xtron in 2010. 

Channel NewsAsia/September 8, 2014

By Kimberly Spykerman

Singapore -- The trial of the six City Harvest Church leaders resumed on Monday (Sep 8), with prosecutors charging that founder Kong Hee and several of his deputies had attempted to wipe out any link between the church and Xtron Productions. This was to avoid questions from the authorities about the transactions between the two entities, they said.

But Kong said there was nothing sinister about what they had done, and they had only wanted to avoid any misconceptions by the authorities. He is one of six leaders accused of misusing church monies to buy sham bonds in two firms - Xtron and Firna - to bankroll the secular pop music career of Kong's wife, Sun Ho.

Kong said the church's relationship with Xtron was thrust into the spotlight in 2010, after it acquired a stake in Suntec Convention Centre. Speculation was rife online about church funds being siphoned into Xtron, and that the church leaders had benefited from this.

Kong cited a blogger known only as John Lim, who wrote that he wanted to expose the wrongdoings in Xtron. "He was insinuating that church funds were being siphoned into Xtron, and somehow we were benefiting from it, or there was some corruption involved," said Kong, emphasising that the church's money had been invested in legitimate Xtron bonds.

However, it is the prosecution's case that Xtron - which was Ms Ho's artiste management firm - was simply a shell company used by the accused to funnel church monies to finance Ms Ho's music career.

Kong added that this was why there was a need for both entities to start on a "clean slate". For this to happen, some transactions, which included expenses Xtron incurred from Ms Ho's album production, would have to be cleared up. Xtron would also have to repay advance rental fees it received from the church.

"I believe to clear off the Advance Rental License Agreement (ARLA), we would need Wahju to make good the album expenses," said Kong, referring to Indonesian businessman and longtime church member Wahju Hanafi - who he claimed had given a personal guarantee to make good the album expenses totalling some S$30 million.

This prompted the prosecution to question why, if there was indeed such a guarantee, Kong had asked Mr Hanafi for a loan to cover Ms Ho's US album expenses, with the promise that some of it would be returned.

Following several prompts by the prosecution and an accusation that he was being "evasive", Kong replied that it was a "big financial burden" and that he and his deputies wanted to shoulder it together with Mr Hanafi. "He was a man of means, he had to take loans because he has invested his money into his business. And he had his other commitments as well. So while Wahju was willing to make good his  guarantee to support us, or support the album cost, at the same time we wanted to help because this is also our mission," he said.

The prosecution disputed Kong's claims. “The reason why 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," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong.

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