This afternoon, Kong Hee explained how it was necessary for him and his team to instruct Firna director Wahju Hanafi on the drawdown of Firna bond proceeds.
Wrapping up his third week on the stand today, senior pastor of City Harvest Church Kong Hee stood his ground when deputy public prosecutor Christopher Ong charged that Firna director Wahju Hanafi had no say in managing the $11m Firna bond proceeds.
The argument that ensued today showed that there were two perspectives being taken when it came to how to read the emails.
The prosecution claimed that Firna was just a “conduit” for the accused to dishonestly channel the church’s building fund monies into the Crossover Project, and that Kong and his team were the ones actually controlling the movement of funds.
One email, for instance, showed Chew Eng Han telling Serina Wee that she had to be the one giving instructions, and that she should ask Hanafi to inform the bank that she would be the one “operating the account.”
Kong agreed with DPP Ong that it was indeed him and his team giving instructions and information to Hanafi regarding payment of funds to the US parties—but for a very simple reason.
Hanafi—a successful Indonesian businessman and ardent supporter of the Crossover Project—had pledged his commitment to fund the mission; Hanafi himself had earmarked part of the Firna bond proceeds for the Crossover Project, the court heard.
Referring to a portion in an email in which Hanafi had informed Serina Wee that “we’ll assure you that none will be withheld anymore by UBS,” Ong put it to Kong that “Wahju is, really, acting as a conduit, so he’s assuring you that your money won’t be held up. Correct?”
“I disagree. Your Honour, Wahju has made certain commitment to support the US project. How else is he going to effect a support? He couldn’t have make payments in a vacuum where he had no information whatsoever. Wahju didn’t do the day-to-day management or running of the Crossover Project. Definitely someone in his position, your Honour, would need guidance, and this was where we came in with—to tell him of the payment schedule, so that he knows exactly when to make those payments,” Kong explained.
As such, in order for Hanafi to know where to send his money to, he needed to take instructions from Kong and his team, who were in charge of the day-to-day matters of the Crossover Project, Kong clarified.
In addition, Kong pointed the court to email evidence showing efforts made by Wee to ensure that Hanafi received and studied the business plans before deciding to be Sun Ho’s independent artist manager and before issuing the Firna bonds.
The prosecutor then moved on to argue semantics, taking the court through emails written by various accused parties containing phrases like “pay us back the money”, “returning money” and “how much does Wahju still owe us?”
The emails related to instances where payment was due from the US music producers and emails had been going around among Kong, his team and Hanafi in attempts to ensure prompt payment and the ironing out of bank details for the transfer of funds.
Given such phrases, the prosecution claimed that the proceeds from the $11m Firna bonds issued by Hanafi never actually belonged to him, even though it was his company which issued the bonds.
Wahju and Firna was just a “conduit” for the accused to channel money to the Crossover Project, the DPP reiterated.
Kong repeated that Hanafi had pledged to support the Crossover Project; the Firna bond proceeds were earmarked for the Crossover Project—and hence the effort to hold Hanafi accountable to his commitment.
There was the understanding that, aside from a portion for Hanafi’s personal use, the Firna bonds would go toward the Crossover Project, Kong said.
The pastor conceded that, on hindsight, there could have been a better choice of words, such as “releasing money” instead of “returning money.”
The DPP reiterated his accusation, calling the Firna bonds “sham.” Kong once again disagreed.
Court resumes on Sep 8.
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