Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Women in CHC Leaders' Trial

Update 23 Oct 2015: Can City Harvest Babe Serina Wee Escape Prison and Other Implications of the Gang of Frauds’ Convictions

Sure, she fudged the numbers and cooked the books.

But what’s worse, Serina Wee was an accomplice in putting our friends in America through the ordeal of listening to Sun Ho’s music.

Damn it, she even played backup singer to the flopping Sun!

related: CHC Serina Wee Played Backup Singer on Music Dud Sun Ho’s Albums!

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Kong Hee: My wife would become the ‘next Whitney Houston’

It was revealed in court yesterday that CHC founder Kong Hee, had regularly “played up” the success of his singer wife, Sun Ho, in CHC. One of CHC leaders, Chew Eng Han, said that he had been brainwashed by Kong into thinking that Kong’s wife would become “a megastar” like American singer Whitney Houston.

Appealing against his conviction and sentence, Chew, who faces six years in jail, said Kong told them that Ms Ho would be more successful than pop stars such as Taiwanese singer Jay Chou and girl group S.H.E. In fact, Kong touted that his wife would be the “next Whitney Houston”.

Chew testified in front of the judges, explaining why he went along with Kong to support Ho’s pop career with the church’s fund, “If she was touted to be the next Whitney Houston, how would she not be a profitable commercial vehicle for us?”

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Kong Hee Believed Sun Ho would be the “Next Whitney Houston”

Errant City Harvest Pastor Kong Hee, who’s accused of misappropriating church funds, apparently expressed his belief that his church-singer wife would become the next Whitney Houston.

That’s according to City Harvest fund manager Chew Eng Han, who’s also appealing his conviction and 6-year jail term for misappropriating church money.

Before the 3-judge panel, Chew said that Kong Hee had written in an email to church leaders back in 2005 that Ho was a “singing diva”.

related:
City Harvest Releases New Album Featuring “Amazing” Sun Ho Songs
8 Years for Kong Hee, 5 Years for Serina: City Harvest Gang of Frauds Jailed
Kong Hee’s Son went Cuckoo, Still Taking Care of his Deaf & Mute Siblings
Prosecution Wants 12 Years Jail for Pastor Kong Hee and Gang of Frauds!
Ex-City Harvest Devotee: Buying Sun Ho’s Albums and “Investment Banker”
Failed Musician Sun Ho Ordained as Pastor, City Harvest Hails New Leader!
Can Serina Escape Prison & Other Implications of the Gang of Frauds’ Convictions
Man Published S$33K Apologies for Question CHC Fund Usage to Escape Lawsuit
Ownself Buy Ownself: Sun Ho Make it in America? You Must be Kidding Judge!
Jail Awaits, as Kong Hee and His Gang of Frauds are Convicted of CBT
If a S$10Mil Home in Sentosa Cove Isn’t Luxury, Then What Is, Pastor Kong?
CHC Chiobu Serina Played Backup Singer on Music Dud Sun Ho’s Albums!


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Kong Hee allegedly called Sun Ho the next Whitney Houston. Looking at their lyrics, we agree completely

There’s an appeal currently underway involving some members of the City Harvest Church.

An interesting point raised in today’s questioning was the revelation by former fund manager, Chew Eng Han, that Kong Hee thought his wife, Ho Yeow Sun (or Sun Ho) would be the “next Whitney Houston”.

This might actually be an apt comparison, as the two share quite a few similarities — including the fact that Whitney Houston appeared in this movie.

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Kong Hee posts video excerpt of Sun Ho’s ordination as pastor

As some of you might have learned, following the City Harvest Church six’s guilty verdict last week, church founder Kong Hee’s wife Sun Ho has been ordained as church pastor in the wake of the high-publicity trial.

Kong, one of the six found guilty of fraud, put up a video on Oct. 19 on his Facebook page, which features a short excerpt of the ceremony:
Kong presents Ho with a bible, saying:
“40 years ago, I became a believer. This is the first bible I owned. And in every ordination normally the ordaining pastor gives a bible. Let this be a symbol of the authority I am handing to you. Sun, this is my bible, it is now in your hands. Let’s give Sun a big clap right now.”
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Sun Ho Ordained as Pastor, City Harvest Hails New Leader!

Failed musician and wife of wayward City Harvest church founder, Kong Hee, had been officially ordained.

The star of dirty dancing music videos like China Wine, who was at the heart of the City Harvest fraud scandal, is expected to lead the church’s next generation of leaders.

In a ceremony over the weekend, Kong Hee, who’s now out on bail while awaiting sentencing for fraud, gave his wife his most precious bible, and essentially said “nah, now your turn to take over.”

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City Harvest’s Sun Ho on US pop music career: Many times, I asked God how long more I had to do it

Sun Ho has acknowledged for the first time in public that she herself was having trouble reconciling the image of a pastor’s wife with her pop music persona as the “Chinese Geisha”.


“People in the church world were upset with me, asking how could a pastor’s wife do this, and people in the entertainment world were suspicious of me,” said Ho in a wide-ranging interview with City News, the online news arm of City Harvest Church (CHC) on Saturday.

Referring to the Crossover Project — the church’s mission to evangelise using secular pop music — the 42-year-old wife of City Harvest founder Kong Hee said, "There were moments during the Crossover, when I felt alone and I seldom talk about this, of course I had my US team, but it was just a hard mission".
“There were days when I didn’t serve the vision with the best attitude. It was hard to be on the road, to be apart from the family I’m so close to…” she admitted, realizing that “the values in the world and those in the church are poles apart”.
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SERINA WEE, 38
Former CHC finance manager

Six charges of CBT and four of falsification of accounts.

Wee, a mother of three, is arguably remembered most for her svelte figure and the stylish outfits she wore during the trial.

Once dubbed a "goddess" by netizens, she was also the Crossover Project administrator.

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Finance manager concedes her action may have deceived auditors
Sharon Tan, finance manager of City Harvest Church (CHC), outside the Court for the CHC leaders trial. She and five other church leaders are on trial for allegedly misusing church funds through sham bonds. They face charges of criminal breach of trust and/or falsifying accounts. PHOTO: NP

City Harvest Church finance manager Sharon Tan broke down on the stand on Friday, even as she conceded that information she had inserted into church board meeting minutes may have deceived auditors.

Choking up under cross-examination by Deputy Public Prosecutor Mavis Chionh, the 39-year-old said:

"Your honour, it might be seen like they are being deceived, but... it wasn't my intention."



City Harvest trial: Why did she cry?
A outburst of tears led to an adjournment of yesterday's City Harvest Church (CHC) trial

CHC finance manager Sharon Tan, who was on the stand on her fourth day of testimony suddenly turned away from the public gallery when her lawyer, Senior Counsel Kannan Ramesh, asked if she had any corrections in her earlier statement to the Commercial Affairs Department.

That led to Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon to ask if she wanted a break. She said: "I'm so sorry, Your Honour."

The session was adjourned for the day while she tried to compose herself, around 15 minutes before the day's hearing was scheduled to end.

related:
CHC trial: Former board member Lam raised doubts on Ho Yeow Sun's US album
CHC trial: Church board backed Ho Yeow Sun's music career, says accused
City Harvest celebrates 25 years despite ongoing trial
More stories on City Harvest trials

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Serina Wee was in a dilemma

Xtron had spent close to S$5 million meant for the rental of a Singapore Expo hall on Ms Ho Yeow Sun's singing enterprise. Now Xtron, which managed Ms Ho's music career from 2003 to 2008, needed money to cover the rental fees.

The firm had money elsewhere. City Harvest Church (CHC) had bought S$13 million of its bonds. But the bond proceeds were off-limits and could not be used to pay the rent.

So Wee, who provided accounting services to Xtron, thought of a plan: Use the bond money to pay the rent and disguise its use under a "travelling and salaries" section.

related:


Serina Wee projected $9.5 million loss from Sun Ho’s album
Music production firm Xtron was bleeding heavily from funding singer Sun Ho's albums and singles

It suffered losses of $9.5 million in the four years after its incorporation in 2003, based on a document shown by the prosecution yesterday.

The prosecution continued its case that City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee and five other church leaders had used Xtron as a "shell company" to enable the misuse of church funds. (See report above.)

Kong, who is on the stand, had maintained that investing into a $13 million Xtron bond in 2007 would bring "good returns".

'The sky's the limit' for Sun Ho

City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee had big plans for his singer-wife Ho Yeow Sun's US debut.

He told US-based music producer and manager Justin Herz in an e-mail in 2005 to "plan as if the sky is the limit".

They would then work out how to get funds for the project.

related: City Harvest trial: Women in the spotlight

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Coping has been hard


She did not plan on becoming a pop star when she was a little girl.

But singer Sun Ho did just that in adulthood, with four No. 1 hits on the American Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs.

That foray is now the subject of a lengthy trial involving six senior members of the church, including her husband and City Harvest founder Kong Hee. Kong and five deputies are accused of misusing more than $50 million of church money through sham bonds to further her singing career and cover up the amount.

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Sun Ho's multi-million dollar attempt to break into Hollywood

How did $23 million help advance singer Ho Yeow Sun's music career in the US?

Ho Yeow Sun, 42, popularly known as Sun Ho, is married to Pastor Kong Hee, 47, founder of City Harvest Church. The couple have a 7-year-old son, Dayan. Kong is currently facing charges of alleged misuse of at least $23 million of church funds to finance his wife's singing career in the US.

A "Crossover Project", started in 2002 by the couple, was set up to use Ho's secular music to connect with people and reach out to non-Christians, local media agencies reported.

related:
Did Sun Ho show too much skin at awards
Sun supporters rise to her defence
Ho Yeow Sun's US$20,000-a-month Hollywood home
Ho Yeow Sun, also known as Sun Ho


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Who is Ho Yeow Sun?

Who is the woman behind beleaguered City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee, now at the centre of the most shocking probe into a religious organization in Singapore?

Ho Yeow Sun, who now styles herself Sun Ho, is no stranger to controversy or the spotlight.  She is expected to come even under more scrutiny after her husband and four other key ministry members were reportedly arrested Tuesday morning for allegedly using church funds to funnel S$23 million into promoting her music and albums.

Since first bursting onto the scene in 2003 as Kong Hee’s Mando-pop singing wife, Ho has been praised and slammed in equal parts by a public shocked by her skimpy dressing and blatant use of her husband’s church as a platform to promote her music albums.

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CHC trial: Sun Ho lost more than $14m on album

It was revealed in court yesterday that a loss of more than $14 million was incurred from the production of an album for pop singer Sun Ho.

Ms Ho is the wife of City Harvest Church (CHC) founder and pastor Kong Hee, who is on trial along with five other church leaders for allegedly funnelling $24 million of the church's funds into sham bond investments to further Ms Ho's career

The Shin Min Daily News reported that the loss amounting to $14,372,654 was settled by Indonesian businessman Wahju Hanafi in a payment to Xtron Productions, a music production company that managed Ms Ho from August 2007 to August 2008

related:
Prosecution tried to establish close ties between City Harvest Church and Xtron
$6 million purportedly paid to American production company
City Harvest case: Where the $23 million allegedly went
More about this case


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Serina Wee and Tan "not doing anything wrong" by opening blogshop: Lawyer
She may be on trial in one of the biggest cases in recent years, but that has not kept an accused from her entrepreneurial side.

On an Instagram post on Oct 23 last year, City Harvest Church (CHC) finance manager Sharon Tan Shao Yuen wrote that she had started an online store selling women's clothes. The last tranche of the CHC leaders' trial ended last Sept 20.

The store's clothing has since shown up on local celebrities such as actress Jacelyn Tay and travel host Belinda Lee.

related:
Serina: Wheeeee, what style!

Ex-finance manager goes into fashion business
What to wear when you're hauled to court

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The Serina Wee Show

There's a new show in town - and it unfolds every morning outside the Subordinate Courts at Havelock Square.

That's when Serina Wee, 36, one of six City Harvest Church leaders accused of misusing may be on trial for allegedly misusing church funds, shows up in her latest outfit, drawing glances and stares from the onlookers.

The former church finance manager has been turning heads - both online and offline - for her beauty and dress sense.

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Serina Wee using her court appearances to showcase blogshop venture?
Serina Wee exits the Subordinate Courts at lunchtime on 13 January 2014 at lunchtime on the first day of the CHC leaders' funds mismanagement trial that has entered its third tranche. (Yahoo photo)
Yahoo Newsroom - Serina Wee exits the Subordinate Courts at lunchtime on 13 January 2014 at lunchtime on the first day of the CHC leaders' funds mismanagement trial that has entered its third tranche. (Yahoo photo)

Serina Wee, the ex-finance manager of City Harvest Church, has parlayed the public attention on her courtroom outfits into a business opportunity.

According to media reports, Wee set up online fashion shop MissyStella last year together with long-time friend Sharon Tan, the church’s finance manager. Both women are currently on trial for misappropriating millions from church coffers. 

Wee had told The Straits Times that her shop targets women "who want to look and feel good, who expect a certain quality at affordable prices".

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Ex-finance manager Serina Wee goes into fashion business
Serina Wee turned up in court on Monday in a white and blue dress (above) from her new blogshop, Missy Stella. - PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

Fans of Serina Wee's fashion sense can now dress like her.

City Harvest Church's former finance manager, who has been turning heads when she turns up in court, has set up a blogshop selling apparel and accessories.

Wee, who started the online shop Missy Stella with long-time friend Sharon Tan, the church's finance manager who is also standing trial, said it targets working professionals and women "who want to look and feel good, who expect a certain quality at affordable prices".

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Fashion holds court

In an Instagram post on Oct 23 last year, City Harvest Church (CHC) finance manager Sharon Tan Shao Yuen wrote that she had started an online store selling women's clothes.

The store's clothing has since shown up on local celebrities such as actress Jacelyn Tay and travel host Belinda Lee.

In the last two days, CHC's former finance manager Serina Wee (above) appeared in court wearing dresses that are available on the online store.

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City Harvest church leaders' trial: Fashion holds court

She may be on trial in one of the biggest cases in recent years, but that has not kept an accused from her entrepreneurial side.

On an Instagram post on Oct 23 last year, City Harvest Church (CHC) finance manager Sharon Tan Shao Yuen wrote that she had started an online store selling women's clothes. The last tranche of the CHC leaders' trial ended last Sept 20.

The store's clothing has since shown up on local celebrities such as actress Jacelyn Tay and travel host Belinda Lee.

read more

Ex-finance manager goes into fashion business

Wee, who started the online shop Missy Stella with long-time friend Sharon Tan, the church's finance manager who is also standing trial, said it targets working professionals and women "who want to look and feel good, who expect a certain quality at affordable prices".

Both Wee, 37, and Tan, 38, told The Straits Times that they designed some of the clothes, while they source the rest from different parts of Asia. They said they started the blogshop because of their love for fashion. The management of the shop's Webpage and social media accounts, such as its Facebook page, which has about 800 likes, have been outsourced.

There are no plans to set up a brick and mortar shop, they added.

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City Harvest's Serina Wee opens blogshop

Now, fans of City Harvest's ex-finance manager Serina Wee can get her style online -- she has started a blogshop with long-time friend, Sharon Tan, the church's finance manager. Both women are currently on trial for misappropriating millions from church coffers

Wee has been attracting public interest for her stylish dressing ever since the trial started. Here's a look at her various fashionista moments:

City Harvest Church finance manager Serina Wee, charged with criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts, arrives in court on 13 January 2014 on the first day of the third tranche of the City Harvest leaders' funds mismanagement trial.

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Here’s looking at you, Serina Wee!
image

The City Harvest trial is back… and men (and women) nationwide can breathe a sigh of relief. Because it means CHC’s former finance manager Serina Wee is back in the limelight. For men, the reasons are obvious. But for women, Serina can power Singapore’s entire fashion industry on her own

Questions like “What’s she wearing?”, “What’s that bag she’s carrying?”, “What shoes are those?” are driving national conversations into overdrive right about now. Stylish, glam and gorgeous, she makes it all seems effortless… no wonder there are queues of people waiting to get into court daily

So step aside Sun Ho, Serina’s our China Wine now.

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Serina: Wheeeee, what style!

There's a new Cecilia Sue in town. The difference: Serina Wee, who has turned the open-air area outside the Subordinate Courts into her own personal runway, looks and dresses way better than the star witness in the Ng Boon Gay trial.

Women like myself are too busy scrutinising Serina's OOTD (outfit of the day), admiring her non-threatening beauty, slim figure and effortless style, and rueing the day the trial - and her fashion parade - will end.

We're talking about a mum of three who gave birth to her third child a mere year ago. She's walking proof that some women are simply more equal than others.

related: Ex-finance manager goes into fashion business
City Harvest church leaders' trial: Fashion holds court
Judged by their looks
It's the Serina Wee show

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Serina Wee steals limelight in City Harvest trial

One of the biggest and most talked about corruption trials in recent years, the City Harvest Church trial has attracted lots of drama and attention.

In late June 2012, state prosecutors charged City Harvest Church's (CHC) senior pastor and founder Kong Hee, 48, as well as five other church leaders --  pastor Tan Ye Peng, who also serves as vice-chairman of the church board, its chairman Lam Leng Hung, executive members Sharon Tan Shao Yuen, former church member Chew Eng Han and ex-finance manager Serina Wee Gek Yin — with varying degrees of involvement in a scheme to siphon off S$24 million from the church's building fund to finance the singing career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun, better known as Sun Ho.

In addition, more than S$26.6 million in church monies was allegedly misappropriated to cover up the original diversion.

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THIS is how you walk up to court, Serina Wee-style
City Harvest Church finance manager Serina Wee, charged with criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts, arrives in court on 13 January 2014 on the first day of the third tranche of the City Har

If ever there was a way to walk up to SubCourt for your court appearance, well, this is it. City Harvest's former finance manager once again got the media falling over themselves on Friday morning, looking prim and proper in a white-with-black-trim ensemble.

As she spots the media scrum waiting to visually assault her with their cameras and videos, she composes herself, takes a deep breath and a last-minute check everything looks okay before strutting down the "runway".

Confident, composed, she nary breaks a stride as she enters the building.

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Trial of City Harvest Church leaders: Who's who

Sharon Tan Shao Yuen joined the accounts department of CHC in January 2000 as an assistant accountant. When Wee left in August 2007, she took over as senior accountant and was subsequently promoted to finance manager some time in 2008.


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'We wanted to reach out to a harsh world'

It's a cruel world where people listen only to the rich and successful. That was why City Harvest Church (CHC) came up with the Crossover Project – where Ms Ho Yeow Sun would go into the secular world and become a successful pop singer. This way, she could take the opportunity to preach to those who do not usually associate themselves with church and Christianity.

This emerged during the trial yesterday, when church trustee Susan Ong (above) took the witness stand.

Madam Ong, who is one of three CHC trustees who act as custodians for the church’s assets, said: “We wanted to reach out to a harsh world where people will only listen to those who are rich and successful. (Ho was chosen) not because she is Kong Hee’s wife but because she was suitable.”

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Auditor in City Harvest Church leaders' trial: I never had lunch with them

She had never been to any of their working lunches.

Nor had she had “informal discussions” with the clients.

For auditor Tiang Yii (above), work was kept strictly professional, and City Harvest Church (CHC) and Xtron Productions were strictly clients, she maintained in court on Wednesday.

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CHC trial: Auditor launched 'full-scale investigation', so use of funds must have been proper, says defence
Auditor Tiang Yii, a partner at Baker Tilly TFW, who oversaw music production firm Xtron Production's audit for the period January to December 2007.

Referring to e-mails in which auditor Tiang Yii from the firm Baker Tilly TFW had asked for various documents to make sure the investments were proper use of church funds, defence lawyer Kannan Ramesh put it to her that she must have been satisfied by her "full-scale investigation" since she eventually signed off on her Xtron audit, which included the period when the bonds were issued.

Defence lawyers for the six accused City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders said in court on Tuesday that Ms Tiang Yii, a partner at auditing firm Baker Tilly TFW, was a "bad witness", reported Shin Min Daily News.

Ms Tiang continued on the stand for a second day as a prosecution witness in the ongoing trial against CHC founder Kong Hee and five others for varying counts of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts.

related:
City Harvest Church case: The man who kept asking questions
Trial of City Harvest Church leaders resumes
City Harvest trial: No overnight queues in this third leg
Sun Ho's music career
City Harvest trial: Bonds were legitimate investments, said trustee
City Harvest Church leader Kong Hee condemns hacking of his wife's website
Sun Ho's site hit by global hacker group
City Harvest trial: $2.2 million New York apartment for Ho Yeow Sun
Serina Wee modelling own blogshop clothes, making money off CHC trial


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City Harvest Church ex-finance chief charged

City Harvest Church's (CHC) ex-finance chief Serina Wee, 35, was charged this morning, making her the sixth person to face criminal charges over the alleged siphoning of church funds.

The Straits Times reported that Wee faces six charges of criminal breach of trust and four for falsifying accounts. Her bail has been set at $500,000. The other five charged so far are founding pastor Kong Hee, 47; church management board member John Lam Leng Hung, 44; Kong's deputy Tan Ye Peng, 39; church finance manager Sharon Tan Shao Yuen, 36; and investment manager Chew Eng Han, 52.

Prosecutors believe that at least $23 million was invested in alleged sham transactions to fund the pop music career of Kong's wife, Sun Ho.

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The Women
Ho Yeow Sun in 2009's Victoria Secrets Show
Ho Yeow Sun

A screengrab of an Sharon Tan's Instagram post, with (from left) Serina Wee, Sharon Tan and Jacelyn Tay, all of whom have worn clothes from the blogshop

City Harvest Church's former finance managers, Serina Wee and Sharon Tan

On Jan 13, Serina Wee Gek Yin, City Harvest Church (CHC)'s former finance chief, appeared in court in a blue-and-white dress. A similar dress can be bought from CHC's former finance manager Sharon Tan's online store Missy Stella for $48

Church finance manager Sharon Tan Shao Yuen

Ms Tiang Yii from Baker Tilly (City Harvest Church's external auditor


Jacelyn Tay