Key prosecution witness told the court he went from being a “shopkeeper” when he first attended City Harvest Church to a businessman owning a multi-million dollar chain of supermarkets and department stores.
Tithing to God and making good on his taxes were probably the best things Wahju Hanafi ever did for his business.
In 1998, at his pastor’s rebuke, the Indonesian business tycoon repaid $1.5 million in taxes he had evaded for the past 10 years. After that, he gave $1 million to his church. During the same year, his supermarket chain business in Papua New Guinea gained profits amounting to $10 million.
Taking the stand in court this afternoon as prosecution witness for his role as Xtron and Firna director, Hanafi was answering questions from deputy public prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng regarding his financial and business backgrounds. Hanafi’s appearance in court has been highly anticipated as he played a key role in underwriting the losses from the Crossover Project.
Hanafi attributed his business success to the teachings he received at City Harvest Church since joining at 1990, as well as counselling from pastors at the church.
“When I came to church, I was just a shopkeeper,” he told the court. “I was only working for my brother-in-law. When I keep on applying what I learn from the Bible principles, about life principle, and I put it into my work, and my life, you know, I was progressing. I even win (sic) all my families into becoming a Christian, including my mum, who used to stop me from coming to church.”
Hanafi said that as he started his own business in 1988, he applied principles he learned from senior pastor Kong Hee’s teachings, such as hard work, honesty and integrity. And it was when he made good on his taxes that he saw “the biggest turnaround in my life.”
Today, Hanafi, a permanent resident of Singapore, is the director of several companies in Indonesia, Singapore and Australia including Xtron, Firna, and the supermarket chain in Papua New Guinea. In addition to his businesses, he also owns about five properties in Singapore, one of which, a penthouse at Sentosa, is co-owned with Kong Hee. Since 2008, Hanafi told the Court, the two of them have been paying monthly installments on the property amounting to S$17,000 each.
In 2002, he attended a concert by Sun Ho and saw many youths responding to Christ during the altar call given by Kong Hee at the end of the concert. Seeing the number of salvations achieved through this form of outreach, Hanafi felt greatly moved to help fund to the Crossover Project, starting with a yearly $1 million sponsorship.
Hanafi became Xtron’s director in 2003. However, in January 2007, he took over Firna from his father-in-law. The 38-year-old company had a debt of $15 million, so Hanafi had to scale down his contributions to Xtron. Furthermore, he suffered a financial crisis in 2008 when some S$2 million worth of Russian bonds he had bought collapsed. He resigned as director of Xtron in 2008.
Despite his substantial personal losses, Hanafi practiced what he had been taught in church, and experienced a surprising business result at the end of that year.
He told the Court, “… God is good. I have my last $100,000, which I gave to the church, and that same year, my PNG (Papua New Guinea) business actually made a record profit of about $26 million.”
The afternoon’s questioning took a personal turn for Hanafi as DPP Tan questioned him about conversations that took place among him, Kong and Tan Ye Peng after interrogations by the Commercial Affairs Department which first began in 2010.
He told the court they did not speak about the case, but shared about their personal problems. When pressed to detail what sort of problems, Hanafi named Tan Ye Peng’s lack of income and four children, Kong’s finances and his own loss of $62 million from a deal with a French company and Firna that was cancelled as a result of the case, plus a loss of reputation in the business circles.
Earlier in court this afternoon, the prosecution questioned their sixth witness, Chiew Meng Lay, a senior officer with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority on why there were discrepancies in the exit and entry records of Choong Kar Weng and Wahju Hanafi. Despite the glaring error in the records—including one reading of Choong’s car as a motorcycle— Chiew steadfastly refused to admit the records were inaccurate.
Court continues on Monday with CHC trustee Susan Ong taking the stand. The prosecution will resume its questioning of Wahju Hanafi thereafter.