SINGAPORE - It was a surprise plea that read like a personal confession.
I will shoulder the blame. I admit I have erred. Please forgive me.
City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee wrote: "I pray that the authorities will be merciful to me, in view of my years of service to my church, our society and to lives in need locally as well as internationally."
Kong's admission of his "mistakes" in the letter was presented to the court yesterday. It took many, including the prosecution, by surprise. The letter was allegedly penned in June 2010.
Kong, who took the stand on Aug 11, was expected to step down yesterday following the conclusion of re-examination by his lawyer, Mr Edwin Tong.
But the unexpected reference of the 12-page "confession letter" by Mr Tong prompted the prosecution and co-accused Chew Eng Han to ask to cross-examine Kong again.
Kong, Chew and four other CHC leaders are on trial for misusing more than $50 million of church funds.
Some of the money was allegedly used to fund the music career of singer Sun Ho, who is married to Kong, through "sham bonds" invested into two companies - Xtron Productions and Firna.
Kong and his accused were arrested on May 31, 2010.
Four days later, Kong allegedly wrote the "confession letter" after the first round of questioning by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).
He claimed he did so because he was urged by CHC's lawyer, Mr Jimmy Yim, to "come clean".
So he said he decided to write his thoughts while in Mr Yim's office.
In the letter, Kong outlined the background of CHC and its mission to evangelise the unchurched through the Crossover Project.
He also included details of his wife and singer Sun Ho's music career and figures of the church's transactions.
He concluded by pleading for leniency as he had recognised his failures and mistakes.