The “confession letter” written by Kong Hee on June 3, 2010 revealed his involvement—or lack of—in matters of the investigation, what he took responsibility for and his stand against any illegal dealings.
“When you say you had done wrong, what wrong did you do?”
On Thursday, Sep 11, when Kong Hee was asked this question by his lawyer Edwin Tong, he replied, “I was ignorant. I could have been more involved in some of the financial transactions, understood it more. I felt I was negligent not being around enough. Could have done a lot of things better, your Honour.”
Tong had brought out, as the final exhibit in his re-examination of Kong, a “confession letter” that the senior pastor of City Harvest Church had written on June 3, 2010 to “come clean”, at the advice of his former lawyer.
In this 12-page letter, Kong told the story of the matters of the investigation from his perspective:
– how the Crossover Project began as a mission of the church, its positive impact on Asia,
– his growing absence from the Singapore church as the Crossover grew,
– the challenges Ho faced,
– the sponsorship of the Hanafi family,
– how Xtron was incorporated to manage Sun so that she would not lose her freedom to serve the vision of the church (which would have happened if she signed to a record company) and how Xtron grew to provide audio-visual services for commercial events and clients,
– how Ho entered the US Billboard Dance charts and the possibility of an album came about,
– how doors to China began to open to her humanitarian efforts,
– how the cost of the US album rose in 2007 to a level that more monies needed to be put into the US album,
– how Chew Eng Han and Tan Ye Peng proposed the Xtron bonds to him which they had sought legal advice on,
– how the sale of Riverwalk to Xtron and the subsequent advance rental license agreement between Xtron and CHC came about,
– why there was a need for the $10m loan for Riverwalk,
– how the Firna bonds came in to raise more capital for the US album,
– how auditor Sim Guan Seng felt the bonds were not a sound investment and advised that the church should redeem them, and how Chew and Tan went about looking for ways to do so
– how Suntec had been procured necessitating the return of the advanced rental to CHC, which caused Xtron to turn to Wahju Hanafi to make good on his promise to underwrite the Crossover
– how Hanafi’s cash position at that time resulted in loans from four individuals who lent him money to pay CHC back.
– How Chew offered CHC an investment opportunity into collaterized loans with a guaranteed five per cent return—whatever was in access of five percent would be contributed to the repayment of the loans.
– The social and religious contributions of the church
Kong ended with a four-point plea (See our Thursday morning report), in which he spoke of his worry for this family, the church and Christianity and God. He wrote: “I am willing to shoulder the blame of my failure as the senior pastor of CHC” and stated that “in all honesty, I truly did not make any of these decisions with the intention of personal gain.”
Did He Shoulder The Blame Or Not?
Kong Hee had said at various times that he was willing to “take the rap” for the other accused. However, co-defendant Chew Eng Han challenged him on this point, citing the confession letter in which Kong had named Chew as the one who had come up with funding solutions including Xtron bond with Tan Ye Peng, the purchase of Riverwalk by Xtron and the advance rentals, the Firna bond, the investments with guaranteed interest.
Chew put it to Kong that the letter “does not amount to a confession letter according to what you described to me, that you were going to take full responsibility and to ask the CAD to let everyone go.”
Kong explained that “At this point in time, in 3 June, when I wrote this letter, I really wanted to come clean, express exactly what was my state of mind, what I knew, and shoulder the blame for everyone. That was my intention.”
Earlier during his cross-examination of Kong, deputy public prosecutor Christopher Ong had raised a similar point to Kong: “You said that you left financing to Eng Han and Ye Peng. So, if the means that they came up with turned out to be illegal … and by that I mean against the law, all right … you would not be responsible, correct?”
Kong had replied that there was a “division of labour in the Crossover Project.”
When pressed further by Ong, Kong said that it was “a difficult question for me to answer because I’m a pastor and, as a shepherd, l want to take responsibility for a whole host of things. Ye Peng and Eng Han have assured me that they have sought out advice from the professionals, so would the professionals also be responsible? … I was not involved in the structuring of the bond transaction. I was aware of the bond transaction. I have instructed them to check with lawyers, auditors and the management board. At no time it was brought to my awareness that something was amiss… I did the best I could, your Honour, when I’m told of something that I’m not an expert in, namely, the bond transactions.”
Following Chew’s cross-exam, senior counsel Andre Maniam helped put the situation into perspective by referring to Chew’s own statements to the CAD in which he explained how he had worked with the auditor Foong Daw Ching, and Christina Ng, the lawyer from Drew and Napier to issue the Xtron bonds.
From Chew Eng Han’s statement to the CAD:
“Question: Describe the process, from the beginning to end, of the issuance of bonds by Xtron and the eventual drawdown by CHC.”
“Answer: After the mechanism was explained to Pastor Tan Ye Peng, I was tasked to do the follow-up legal work with the lawyers. At the same time, the idea was explained to the auditors, Foong Daw Ching regarding the issuance of the bonds, as well as the purpose of the bonds. As the auditors had no issue, I was then to proceed with the lawyers, M/s Drew and Napier, to draft out the bond agreement pertaining to the first tranche.”
Question: Who came up with the clause in the bond agreement stating the purpose of the loan was for music production?
Answer: I told the lawyer, Christina Ng from Drew and Napier that the bond proceeds will be used for the Crossover Project. I explained the Crossover Project to the lawyer. She followed-on from my description and incorporated the stated purpose into the bond agreement.”
Maniam asked Kong: “My question is this: what Mr Chew said to the CAD in those two answers, that is consistent with your understanding that lawyers and auditors would be involved in the process. That’s correct?
Kong replied yes.
Maniam continued: “Pastor Kong, this matter of coming clean and taking responsibility, you were not going to lie in that process and say you were the one who spoke to the lawyer when that wasn’t the truth. Right?”
Kong: “No, I’m not going to lie.”
Maniam clarified: “What you were just doing was stating as a matter of fact what you did and what others did. That’s right?”
“Yes, your Honour,” replied Kong.
No Intention To Do Anything Illegal
It also surfaced in court that throughout the four years since the investigations began on May 31, 2010, Kong had been consistent in his testimony that he had no intention at any point to do anything illegal, which was why he had insisted at every turn that lawyers and auditors be consulted on every decision that the Crossover team wanted to make.
It was seen in Kong’s statements to the CAD—he had given 12 over the course of three years—a number of times that the senior pastor drew the line at illegal and unethical practices even if they meant the furthering of the mission.
Q402 (3rd statement): Do you agree that during the period when Hanafi could not come out with the funds to support Sun’s music production i.e. the crossover project, you were in dire straits to raise funds and that was how the Xtron bonds and the Firna bonds came about?
A: I wouldn’t say that Hanafi could not. If he wanted to, he could have liquidated his assets and funded the project, but at that point in time, he had already helped fund Sun’s project for so long. So he decided to take a break and focus on his new business in Jakarta. I was urgent to raise the monies for Sun’s US crossover project but not in dire straits. If I had the slightest indication that the issuance of bonds was illegal or unethical, I would never have gone through it. To me, no projects, no matter how great it is for the church is worth taking such a risk.
Q415 (3rd statement): In reality, the birth of the Xtron and the FIRNA bonds were simply to raise monies to fund Sun’s crossover project when the funds stalled, and as Sun’s husband, you were desperate to raise funds. You have a deep personal interest in it and cannot claim that you only knew about the details only on 3 June 2010 during the meeting with your lawyers. Why are you distancing yourself from the Xtron and FIRNA bonds issues which involved significant amount of monies?
A: I am not distancing myself from the bond issues. I am stating a fact. I was aware of the sales of Xtron and Firna bonds. What I am not certain of was the worth of the bonds sold, and the details of those transactions. I am not investment savvy and have stayed from investment into stocks, shares and bonds. My focus is on ministries and tagging our mission effort with Sun’s crossover project. Because I spent most of my time overseas, I entrusted all investment matters to the Management Board and the investment committee. Although the amount of money is considerable, it is still a fraction of our annual church income. At the back of my mind, I have the security of the Hanafi family underwriting all losses. As such, I fully trusted the Board members to make the right decision. While I am urgent to raise monies for Sun’s crossover, I would never put the church at risk. If I had known that such transaction is illegal, or will cause the church to suffer financial losses, I would have put a stop to it immediately.
Q1893 (12th statement): Was the BSA between CHC and Firna dated 7 October 2008 approved at any EGM before 1 August 2010?
A: I cannot remember but I am sure whether there was an AGM/EGM approval or not, it should be documented in the respective minutes. However, we were very careful that we do not do anything illegal. All investment agreements were drafted by the lawyers from Drew and Napier and Rajah and Tann. The lawyers would have advised us on the proper approval procedure and whether presentation was needed at an AGM/EGM to get the approval of the EMs. Apart from the lawyers, the auditors have process because they are the ones who prepare the audited accounts.
It was seen throughout the four weeks that Kong Hee was on the stand that he and the team had consistently apprised the auditors and lawyers they had engaged, for the very purpose of ensuring that all the transactions they entered into were legal and proper.
Kong Hee had spent 19 days on the stand, ending Thursday afternoon.
中文报道 – 城市丰收审讯：康希犯了什么错？