SINGAPORE - Former City Harvest Church (CHC) leader Chew Eng Han admitted during investigations that he had sought to leave Singapore, as he "felt injustice" over his High Court case involving the misuse of church funds, a district court heard on Monday (Sept 24).
On the first day of his trial, Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong said Chew, 58, had also stated during investigations that he did "not want to be convicted".
He allegedly attempted to leave Singapore at the north-eastern part of Pulau Ubin, which is an unauthorised point of departure, at 8.47am on Feb 21.
Chew is accused of committing this offence one day before he was to begin serving his jail term of three years and four months for his role in the misuse of church funds to the tune of millions of dollars.
He is also said to have attempted to defeat the course of justice by boarding a motorised boat at Pulau Ubin jetty earlier that morning.
Chew was originally sentenced in 2015 to six years' jail for his earlier offences but this was reduced to three years and four months by the High Court in April last year. The shortened term was upheld by the Court of Appeal on Feb 1.
Five other CHC leaders - including founder-pastor Kong Hee - who were also convicted of misusing church funds, began serving their terms in April last year. Chew started serving his sentence for his earlier offences on March 1 this year.
On Monday, DPPs Ong and Eugene Sng stated in their opening statement that Chew had made arrangements to leave Singapore illegally.
They said in the statement: "This entailed travelling in the boat towards four fish farms in Singapore waters in the vicinity of north-east Pulau Ubin, which are close to the boundary between Singapore and Malaysian waters."
Shortly after midnight on Feb 21, Chew received a call asking him to go to Changi Village at 7.30am. His older brother picked him up from his home around 6.45am and drove him there.
Chew made a phone call and was told to take a boat to Pulau Ubin jetty, as police patrol boats had been seen in the vicinity.
DPP Ong told District Judge Victor Yeo that Chew took a boat to the island and boarded another vessel at a jetty there at 8.19am that day.
Police Coast Guard team leader Lam Kok Wah said in a statement that he received a call on his mobile phone at 5.40am on Feb 21 informing him that an "unknown individual" would be attempting to leave Singapore illegally from the vicinity of Changi in a boat.
DPP Sng, who read out the statement, said Inspector Lam spotted the vessel in the waters off Pulau Ubin at 8.43am and Police Coast Guard officers intercepted it.
Officers then arrested the two people on it - Chew and Singaporean fish farm owner Tan Poh Teck, 53.
The court heard on Monday that Chew, represented by lawyer Adrian Wee, had decided not to give his testimony in court. Judge Yeo is expected to give his verdict on Nov 13.
Tan was sentenced to 27 weeks' jail in July.
Two Malaysian men were also jailed earlier this year for their roles in helping Chew in his alleged escape bid. Private tour guide Tan Kim Ho, 42, and freelance driver Khoo Kea Leng, 45, were each sentenced to six months' jail.
Chew 's older brother Chew Eng Soon has not been charged in court.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.