City Harvest leaders' appeals outcome to be delivered on Apr 7: 5 things about the case

City Harvest leaders' appeals outcome to be delivered on Apr 7: 5 things about the case
PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - An end to what has been a marathon trial could be in sight, with the six City Harvest church (CHC) leaders convicted of misappropriating millions in church funds due back in the High Court on Friday (April 7).

An outcome of the appeals by the six, including CHC founder and senior pastor Kong Hee, and the prosecution is expected to be delivered at around 9.30am.

At the close of a five-day appeal hearing in September 2016, Justice Chan Seng Oon had called the Crossover Project, a church mission that used the funds to fuel the pop music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun, a "very extravagant" way of spreading the gospel.

The prosecution, which is calling for harsher sentences, said during the hearing that the six had not shown remorse for their actions.

Here's a recap of Singapore's largest charity financial scandal.

Read also: City Harvest Church leaders return to court for appeals

1. Who are the six church leaders?

Six church leaders were found guilty in October 2015 of misusing around $50 million in church funds. All six were handed jail terms of between 21 months and eight years in November.

Kong Hee, 52, CHC founder

Convicted of: Three charges of criminal breach of trust

Sentence: Eight years

Chew Eng Han, 55, former CHC fund manager

Convicted of: Six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts

Sentence: Six years

Tan Ye Peng, 43 , founding member and deputy senior pastor

Convicted of: Six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts

Sentence: Five and a half years

Serina Wee, 39, former CHC finance manager

Convicted of: Six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts

Sentence: Five years

John Lam, 47, former CHC finance committee member

Convicted of: Three charges of criminal breach of trust

Sentence: Three years

Sharon Tan, 40, former CHC finance manager who took over from Wee

Convicted of: Three charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts

Sentence: 21 months

2. What did they do?

They were convicted of misusing church funds, in a project called Crossover, to further the music career of pastor-singer Ho Yeow Sun, the wife of Kong.

This was done by funnelling $24 million into sham bonds to bankroll Ms Ho's career. The accused then misused a further $26 million to cover their tracks.

Read also: City Harvest accused, prosecution file appeals

3. How did it work?

The Crossover project was conceived by Kong as a way of spreading his church's message through popular culture.

The project was initially funded directly by the church, but in 2003 church member Roland Poon alleged that the church's building fund had been used to finance Ms Ho's music career. Mr Poon later retracted the allegations and apologised.

Music production company Xtron was then set up to manage Ms Ho. It had its own directors, but it was allegedly Kong alone who made decisions regarding his wife's music career and how much to spend.

When auditors raised concerns about Xtron, funds began to be directed to another company - glass manufacturer Firnas.

A total of $24 million was invested in bonds from Xtron and Firnas that were in fact used to fund the Crossover Project, the court found.

Another $26 million from church funds were later used to offset the bonds.

4. What is the prosecution calling for?

The prosecution had called for stiffer sentences than those passed.

They are appealing for sentences ranging from five to 12 years for the six.

Lawyers said that this move by the prosecution forced the defence to submit appeals for lighter sentences.

5. How long was the trial?

Criminal investigation into the case began in 2010.

The trial stretched over 142 days, from its start in 2013 to sentencing in November 2015. It is one of the longest criminal cases in history, beaten only by a drug trafficking case in the 1990s that went on for 168 days.

The case is also likely to be the costliest criminal trial here. Legal fees for the six church leaders could exceed $10 million, said lawyers.


This article was first published on April 4, 2016.
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