SINGAPORE - All six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders have been found guilty of misappropriating $50 million of church funds and falsifying the church's accounts to cover up their misdeeds.
The verdict was given in the State Courts by Judge See Kee Oon today (Oct 21).
The six accused are CHC's founder and senior pastor Kong Hee, 51, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 42, former church board member and Chairman of CHC's Investment Committee John Lam Leng Hung, 47, former church board and CHC Investment Committee member Chew Eng Han, 55, and former finance managers Sharon Tan, 40, and Serina Wee, 38. They were all present in court.
"The main background facts are largely undisputed," said Judge See when court proceedings began around 9.40am, reported Channel NewsAsia.
On the wrong use of building funds, he said the bonds were "not genuine investments". The "perceived success of Crossover was inflated", Judge See added, reported The Straits Times.
Channel NewsAsia also reported that the judge said Kong, Tan Ye Peng and Wee had a substantial role in channeling the funds. Judge See said that John Lam had a "less substantial" role but had his own part to play, said the Channel NewsAsia report.
The Straits Times reported that the judge said Kong, Tan, Wee and Chew knew that they had something to hide.
"Accused persons all knew that the primary purpose of the bonds (was) to channel money to the Crossover (Project)," said the judge in The Straits Times report.
In the Channel NewsAsia report, Judge See said "if it can be shown that they were doing was legitimate I think there may well be room for doubt, but the weight of evidence shows they were acting dishonestly."
The Straits Times reported that Wee appeared to be slightly teary-eyed when the verdict was delivered and Kong's head was bowed low.
"I am satisfied that six accused persons are guilty of all the charges against them," said Judge See in his verdict, in the Channel NewsAsia report.
Sentencing will be given on a later date.
According to the Channel NewsAsia report, "criminal breach of trust can attract a life sentence or a jail term of up to 20 years, and a fine. The falsification of accounts carries a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine".
Court was adjourned around 10.40am. Judge See said bail will be extended for all accused, which stands at $1 million for each, except for Wee and Tan, who have their bail standing at $750,000 each, said the Channel NewsAsia report. They are all also barred from travelling overseas.
Sun Ho, CHC's co-founder and Kong's wife, said in a statement on their Facebook page that they "are disappointed by the outcome" and "will take legal advice from their respective lawyers in the days to come". She also thanked their congregation for their support.
Around 130 members of the church had turned up at the courts since before 5am. They had queued to obtain one of 55 passes to witness the verdict.
In a trial that has lasted three years, the six were first charged in court in June 2012 for misappropriating $24 millions of church funds for a Crossover Project where Ms Ho was meant to evangelise as a singer through pop music. Another $26 million was used to cover up the initial amount through sham investments in two companies owned by CHC supporters - music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna, reported Channel NewsAsia.