Members worried as others rally behind leaders

my paper spoke to five church members and, while all expressed support for their embattled leaders, at least one was worried that the church's reputation would be affected.

Ms She-ler Goh, 19, a Ngee Ann Polytechnic student, said: "This incident hasn't really affected me because I still believe in the church leaders and our church community."

A 22-year-old National University of Singapore undergraduate, who wants to be known only as Kenneth Y, said: "It may take some time for others to rebuild their trust in our church, but I believe that we will be able to regain their trust over time."

The other four arrested yesterday were deputy pastor and vice-president Tan Ye Peng; management-board member John Lam Leng Hung; investment manager Chew Eng Han; and finance manager Sharon Tan Shao Yuen. All five will be charged in court today.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Commissioner of Charities said it received in early 2010 "complaints alleging the misuse of the (church's) funds". It informed the Commercial Affairs Department which investigated the transactions.

The Commissioner's Inquiry discovered "financial irregularities of at least $23 million" from the church's funds and noted that "there was a concerted effort to conceal this movement of funds from its stakeholders".

The money was allegedly used to fund the Crossover Project, "with the purported intention to use Sun Ho's secular music to connect with people and reach out to non-Christians", it added. Sun Ho, also known as Ho Yeow Sun, is a singer and wife of Mr Kong.

Highlighting the church's "poor corporate governance", the Commissioner zeroed in on these areas: misrepresentation on the use of the church's funds; use of the funds to fund the Crossover Project; and schemes to avoid disclosure of related transactions.

Despite the charges against their leaders, church members told my paper that they would not be deterred from carrying out worship activities.

Kenneth Y said: "It doesn't change our faith or what we believe in."

Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, yesterday said in a statement that the charges filed are against the five leaders on the use of church funds, and not against the church itself.

He added that the church is free to continue its services and activities.

"As the matter is now before the courts, we should let the law take its course and avoid speculation or making pre-judgements that may unnecessarily stir up emotions," he said.

City Harvest Church became a registered charity in 1993. As of end-2009, its congregation numbered about 33,000 people.

Based on its financial statements for the financial year ended Oct 31, 2009, its income amounted to about $72 million, while expenses amounted to about $48 million. Its net assets are estimated to be worth $103 million.

Ho Yeow Sun questioned, June 16, 2010
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City Harvest probed, June 1, 2010
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City Harvest's new home at Suntec
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