Singapore – Back in September 2016, the High Court was urged by the prosecution to dismiss the appeal of six leaders from City Harvest Church (CHC) who were convicted with the largest mishandling of charitable funds in the history of Singapore. The whole case was started in 2013.
While holding positions of responsibility and trust, CHC’s founder-pastor Kong Hee, his former right-hand-man Tan Ye Peng, former church board member John Lam, former church fund manager Chew Eng Han and former church finance managers Serina Wee and Sharon Tan misappropriated a total of S$50.6 million worth of church funds.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Christopher Ong said that they abused their influence and created false transactions using church funds and “cultivated and exploited a ‘culture of insecurity mired in secrecy and opaqueness’.”
The group was found to have siphoned S$24 million from the church’s building fund and used a false bond investment as an alibi which was allegedly spent on the pop career of Ms. Ho Yeow Sun, the wife of Kong Hee. When the auditors were hot on their tracks, they conducted more “Lazy Susans” (the practice selling assets but buying it back at a later time at the same value) amounting to another S$26 million in hopes of covering their footprints.
The 6 were convicted of varying counts of criminal breach of trust and falsification of records leading to sentences ranging from 21 months to 8 years of jail time. This was shortened to 7 months to 3 ½ years by the High Court last year April because their criminal breach of trust was deemed not severe enough to merit the initial sentence.
Sharon Tan and John Lam have completed their sentences of 7 months and 1 ½ years jail time, respectively.
Serina Wee, who started her term in CHC in 1999, was the manager of the Crossover Project. This was an initiative by the church to spread the Good News using Ms. Ho’s music. She was found guilty with six counts of criminal breach of trust and 4 counts of falsification of records. Ms. Wee is the third to complete her sentence which was originally 5 years but was shortened to 20 months because of good behaviour.
The online community was pleasantly surprised at the turn of events and expressed their opinions.
Khris Ang seems to find the whole plan to be quite lucrative.
Kevin Low makes a valid point about cons and consequences.
There were some, like Lim Kay Hwan Richard who hopes that the time in jail will serve as a turning point for the group.