Friday, 23 October 2015

Verdict of City Harvest Church Trial

It's a 'rap' for Singapore church in $36m fraud

Six leaders of a Singaporean "mega-church" have been convicted of a $36million fraud after diverting donations into a failed project to turn a pastor's wife into a global rap music star.

Kong Hee, the founder and chief pastor of the City Harvest Church, and five aides failed to persuade the judge that the scheme was a legitimate use of church funds to spread God's word by helping his wife Ho crack the US music market.

The racy details of the two-year trial captivated the city state, which is famously law-abiding and where corruption is rare. Kong and five aides were convicted of stealing $17m by using fake bond investments to mask the spending on Ms Ho's career. The court also found that they used a further $18.5m to try to hide the first fraud from auditors.

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Singapore City Harvest megachurch leaders guilty of fraud

The court ruled the weight of evidence against the six showed they had acted dishonestly
Six leaders of a huge Singaporean church have been convicted of fraud in a case worth S$50m ($35m; £23m).

The judge ruled City Harvest Church's pastor, Kong Hee, and others used church finances to fund the music career of his wife, Sun Ho, or falsified accounts to cover it up. The defendants had argued Ms Ho's pop music career was a way of reaching out to non-Christians.

They have been bailed until sentencing, but could face up to life in jail. Sun Ho herself is not accused of wrongdoing.

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Singapore Megachurch Founder Is Convicted of Fraud

The pastor of a Singapore megachurch was convicted of fraud on Wednesday, with a judge finding that he had used millions in church funds to promote his wife’s career in pop music.

The pastor, Kong Hee, of City Harvest Church, and five other church officials were convicted of charges related to the misuse of $36 million to support the career of Mr. Kong’s wife, Ho Yeow Sun, a singer also known as Sun Ho. The six church leaders were indicted in 2012, and their 140-day trial has been followed closely in Singapore, which is known for aggressively prosecuting corruption cases. Mr. Kong and the other leaders, who were convicted of varying counts of criminal breach of trust, face up to 20 years in prison. No date has been set for their sentencing.

“The accused persons chose to engage in covert operations and conspiratorial cover-ups,” Judge See Kee Oon said. “They contrived to create cover stories and clever round trips concealing their unlawful conduct.”

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6 leaders found guilty on all charges, out on bail

All six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders facing charges including criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts were found guilty on all counts on Wednesday (Oct 21).

Following the judgment, the church said all six are now taking legal advice, with some of their lawyers suggesting their clients may appeal the sentence. All have been released on bail of between S$750,000 and S$1 million, though overseas travel is not permitted.

Sentencing will take place at a later date, with the court due to hear submissions from defence and prosecution lawyers from Nov 6 to 20.

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Removal proceedings to resume against CHC leaders after sentencing: Commissioner of Charities
Kong Hee and his wife Sun Ho arrive at the States Courts on Oct 21, 2015. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong

Proceedings to remove the City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders and members convicted of criminal charges will resume after they are sentenced by the court, said the Office of the Commissioner of Charities (COC).

In a response to queries that was sent close to midnight yesterday (Oct 21), the COC said: “The COC will seek representations from the City Harvest Church and the seven suspended individuals - as to why the COC should not remove them. The COC will consider fully and fairly all representations received before making a decision”.

In August 2013, the COC had agreed to defer proceedings to remove eight former CHC executive members until this court case concludes. These eight individuals include all six offenders convicted yesterday - founder and senior pastor Kong Hee, his deputy Tan Ye Peng, John Lam, Sharon Tan, Chew Eng Han and Serina Wee. The remaining two are Mr Kelvin Teo Meng How and Ms Jacqueline Tan Su Pheng.

related:
Courtroom packed while crowd waits outside
Conviction ‘a reminder to pay greater attention to management of church funds’
6 City Harvest Church leaders found guilty on all charges
City Harvest Church leaders conspired to misuse funds: Judge


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Man Published S$33K in Apologies for Questioning City Harvest Church Fund Usage to Escape Lawsuit

Back in 2003, an elderly City Harvest Church member became suspicious about how church funds were being used and began asking questions. He ended up paying S$33,000 to publish public apology notices.

62-year-old Roland Poon had been attending services at City Harvest Church for several years and had donated large sums of money to the church’s building fund.

But he started feeling uneasy after much sermon time was dedicated to promoting the music of failed artiste Sun HoMr Poon started asking questions, but he was ignored.

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And the verdict is…

The long-awaited verdict of the City Harvest Church (CHC) Trial is out: all six leaders, including founder Kong Hee, have been found guilty of misappropriating a total of $50 million church funds and falsifying accounts to cover their tracks.

Judge See Kee Oon delivered the verdict of the 140-day trial this morning (21 Oct), saying that he is “satisfied that… there is falsification of CHC accounts”.

The six accused are founder and senior pastor Kong Hee, 51; deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 42; former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han, 55; former CHC finance managers Serina Wee, 38, and Sharon Tan, 40; and former CHC finance committee member John Lam, 47.

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City Harvest verdict: What City News highlighted vs What the mainstream media reported

Have you heard of news portal City News? It had been covering the City Harvest Church (CHC) trial intimately, devoting much manpower and resources to provide readers with up-to-date reports and videos about the trial. A quick check on CHC’s official website confirms that City News is indeed linked to the church:

Now, of course, there is nothing wrong with having a publication or website to cover events and news about the church.

But one would naturally be puzzled when the following was what City News posted on their Facebook page after the six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders were on Wednesday morning found guilty on all the charges they faced, including criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts:

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Sun Ho: God will use the (City Harvest guilty verdict) outcome for our good

After the long-anticipated guilty verdict of the more than three-year-long City Harvest Church leaders’ trial involving some S$50.6 million of its building funds, founder Kong Hee’s wife, singer and new church leader Sun Ho has taken to Facebook with a statement in response.

She also calls on the church to pray for all six found guilty, including Chew Eng Han.

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SUN HO: WE ARE DISAPPOINTED WITH THE JUDGEMENT BUT WE SHALL PREVAIL

The judge has rendered his decision and, naturally, we are disappointed by the outcome. Nonetheless, I know that Pastor Kong and the rest are studying the judgment intently and will take legal advice from their respective lawyers in the days to come.

As was the case throughout these past three years of court trial, and the earlier two years of investigation, we have placed our faith in God and trust that whatever the outcome, He will use it for our good (Romans 8:28). This protracted season has been extremely difficult, not just for the six, but also for all their families and friends, as well as for our congregation.

In spite of these challenges, City Harvest Church has an unshakeable calling from God. Recently, Pastor Kong has exhorted us to focus on our core values, and serve the purpose of God with greater effectiveness and sustainability. Since 2012, we have had a new management and a new Church Board running the operations of the church. Therefore, let’s stay the course with CHC 2.0. God is making us stronger, purer and more mature as a congregation.

related: DID CITY HARVEST CHURCH'S SUN HO UNDERGO PLASTIC SURGERY?

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EVOLUTION OF SUN HO'S HORSE FACE TO PLASTIC FACE?

Today, the courts have finally delivered the guilty verdict to the 6 CHC leaders for breaking the 8th commandment.

But during the trial that spanned 2 long years, did Sun Ho undergo plastic surgery to alter her face?

Look at the evolution of her face and judge for yourself! 

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Pastor Kong Hee and five City Harvest Church leaders found guilty for fraud

Pastor Kong Hee and five other leaders of the City Harvest Church have been found guilty for criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts today (Oct 21). The judge did not mince his words for his judgement saying the six “engaged in conspiracies to defraud and falsify accounts based on extensive documentary evidence”:

“Music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna were not genuine investments… and were all wrong uses of CHC’s funds. I do not see how they can be said to have acted in good faith in relation to the charges they face.

“I find that the accused persons were variously inextricably entangled in two conspiracies to misuse CHC’s funds. One conspiracy consisted of misusing building fund monies for the Crossover, and the other involved misusing CHC’s funds, a substantial portion of which comprised building fund monies, to create the appearance of bond redemptions and to defraud the auditors via falsified accounts through the various roles they played.

related: PlastyTalk: Did City Harvest’s Sun Ho undergo plastic surgery?

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Inside Singapore's City Harvest megachurch scandal
City Harvest was founded by Kong Hee (right) and his wife, pastor turned pop singer Sun Ho (left)

The City Harvest megachurch scandal is the biggest corruption case squeaky-clean Singapore has seen in years. From racy music videos to a convoluted money trail, the case has riveted Singaporeans.

City Harvest Church was founded by the charismatic pastor Kong Hee and his wife, pastor turned pop singer Sun Ho, in 1989. Known for its slick image and wealth-focused brand of Christianity, it has grown rapidly and is now estimated to have some 30,000 members in Singapore and elsewhere.

But on Wednesday, Kong and five other church leaders were convicted of fraud, in a case worth $50m Singapore dollars ($35m; £23m).

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Transcript of the CHC guilty verdict

IT WAS judgement day for the six members embroiled in the City Harvest Church case that spanned over 140 days. Senior Pastor and Founder Kong Hee, Deputy Senior Pastor Tan Ye Peng, Member of Investment Committee John Lam, former Fund Manager Chew Eng Han, former Finance Manager Serina Wee, and her successor Sharon Tan were arrested in 2012 following a probe into financial irregularities by the Commissioner of Charities and the Commercial Affairs Department.

And the verdict? Guilty. All six were found guilty of all charges laid against them – criminal breach of trust and falsifying of accounts.

Explaining his judgement, Justice See Kee Oon told the court that all six members were “crucial cogs in the machine” in the plan to defraud City Harvest Church.

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A Christian and sceptic talk about the City Harvest verdict

IT’S hard for the faithful to see one of their own convicted, and so it must be with the congregation of City Harvest Church (CHC). Nobody likes to see their own “man of the cloth’’ being denounced as a con man. In this case, it wasn’t just the church’s founder and senior pastor Kong Hee, but five other church leaders as well. For the CHC faithful, and in fact, much of the defence’s case, the issue was about spreading the word of God through more ways than merely preaching the gospel. And while money was involved, no one benefited from it.

The court has decided that it was wrong for the CHC six to have used church building funds to finance Sun Ho’s career and then try to cover up the trail. They knew they were doing wrong, said the judge, which was why they kept the matter quiet even from their own lawyers and auditors. They were dishonest in both their intentions and the way they went about doing it.

Justice See Kee Oon said that all six were “inextricably tangled” in two conspiracies of misusing church Building Fund monies to buy sham bond investments to finance the Crossover Project he found that while Tan Ye Peng, Chew, Wee, Sharon Tan and Lam had acted in trust of Kong’s leadership, it does not exonerate them. “No matter how pure the motives and how ingrained the trust in leaders, these do not exonerate the accused persons.”

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KONG HEE: "WITH GOD'S GRACE AND LOVE, I HAVE NO FEAR"

On Wednesday, City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee was found guilty, along with 5 other CHC elders, of misappropriating S$24 million of church funds to finance his wife's attempt to become a pop star in the United States. They then used another S$26 million to try and cover up the amount through sham bonds.

A day after the verdict, Kong Hee has spoken up about his views on Facebook: "This is a difficult time for me, and especially for my family, just as it is for the other co-accused persons.

"As was the case throughout these past three years of court trial, and the earlier two years of investigation, I have put my faith and my all in God, and trust that whatever the outcome, He will use it for good in His time and in His way (Rom. 8:28; Eccl. 3:11). My family and I are continually assured and strengthened by the love and support shown to us during this entire time."

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'I'm here to pray for a fallen man'
Crowds waiting for the security officer to hand out passes at 7.15am

Ms Lee Yilun, a 32-year-old CHC youth leadership member, said: "Naturally, we are disappointed with the outcome but we're definitely staying in church to continue to fulfil the call of God... We'll definitely stand with them and trust the leadership."

Others who disagreed with what the six accused had done stood firmly with the CHC supporters.

One of them was a woman in her 60s who said she was from a "sister" church. Declining to be named, she said: "I'm here today to pray for a fallen man."

related: City Harvest Trial

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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 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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Post-Verdict CHC: Out Of The Ashes, We Rise
City Harvest Church’s services this past weekend capped the end of a painful chapter for the church and heralded the beginning of a brand new phase filled with hope

This past weekend was an important one for City Harvest Church. Last Wednesday, all six parties involved in the trial were found guilty of all charges. Sentencing will take place on Nov 20.

Standing before his congregation after praise and worship, senior pastor Kong Hee apologized and bowed before the people. “Pastor is sorry for the pain you all have had to endure under my leadership and watch,” he said. “Pastor is sorry, but hopefully, that season in the life of our church is in the past.”

There were few dry eyes in the auditorium as the people stood to their feet, cheering and applauding Kong, rendering their support and love to their senior pastor.

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Phil Pringle: “CHC Will Only Get Stronger”

Phil Pringle, City Harvest Church’s advisory pastor, was in court yesterday morning to support CHC’s senior pastor Kong Hee. We spoke to him after the verdict.

How did you feel when the verdict was delivered?
  • Obviously, the verdict is very serious. I was initially shocked, and then deeply concerned for the families—I’m praying for comfort for them. I know Kong is more concerned about others, especially about Sun and his family.
  • I feel that even though the judge commended them for intending to do the right thing, he [found] that the investment strategy of CHC was not acceptable to the law. I think the situation was that he said, “You meant well, but you did wrong.”
  • It’s easy on hindsight to pass criticism, but at the time, it obviously seemed right to them, as they had sought professional advice on their plans.
  • I also think that the judge felt that Pastor Kong was the only one making decisions and that everyone was simply doing what he was directing. I think it’s true Pastor Kong presided over the larger vision; however, the activating was certainly in the hands of many people in the team.
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Whatever’s going against City Harvest Church is by the devil, according to Kong Hee’s pastor friend Phil Pringle

So, the much-anticipated verdict for the City Harvest Church trial is expected to be announced on Wednesday morning, Oct. 21.

Since June 2012, when the six leaders of the megachurch were first hauled to court to be charged for allegedly misappropriating church funds and falsifying the church’s accounts to cover up their misdeeds, the understanding was that this trial is going to be a long drawn epic affair.

And sure it was, given that there was so much ground to cover as this was a professional white-collar job of a scale that was unseen and a sophistication that was unheard of in Singapore’s history.

related: 12 years ago, CHC threatened to sue whistleblower, they owe him an apology

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Full Coverage:
The man who drew thousands of followers

The $50 Million Fraud To Make The Next Pop Star
It's a 'rap' for Singapore church in $36m fraud
Spore's City Harvest Church leaders found guilty of misappropriating RM156m
City Harvest Trial: Facing Judgement Day
6 accused guilty of all charges
Kong Hee and City Harvest Church leaders found guilty: What next?
CHC calls on members to stay united
City Harvest trial: Saga highlights crucial role of whistle-blower
Judge convicts all six City Harvest Church leaders
Hiding unlawful conduct, siphoning funds, fraud
Supporters' mood turns grim on hearing news
Guilty verdict for 6 CHC leaders; judge cites overwhelming evidence
City Harvest trial: Six accused guilty of all charges
Man who alleged funds misuse 'vindicated'
Judge: CHC leaders contrived to cover up unlawful conduct
City Harvest trial: Popular leader left silent by verdict
Judge: Sun Ho's music success was 'inflated'
City Harvest trial: 6 leaders found guilty on all charges, out on bail
Removal proceedings to resume against CHC leaders after sentencing
Singapore megachurch leaders hit a sour note in pop music fraud case
City Harvest Church leaders conspired to misuse funds: Judge
City Harvest Trial

Church Leaders Get Rich or Die Trying
– Mothership: 12 years ago,CHC threatened to sue whistleblower,they owe him apology
– ASS: CHC, BREAKING LAW IN THE NAME OF GOD DOESN’T MAKE IT OKAY
– Redwire Times: Can Serina Escape Prison, of the Gang of Frauds’ Convictions
– The Middle Ground: A Christian and sceptic talk about the City Harvest verdict
– Helen Ang: Evangelical church stole RM153m & broke 8 of God’s 10 commandments
– New Nation: CHC goers regret Sun Ho wasn’t paid S$500,000 to stop singing
– City News: Phil Pringle: “CHC Will Only Get Stronger”
– Barry’s Blog: City Harvest Criminals
– Crazyrandomchatter: CHC – condemn the act, but let’s not damn the people
– Six-Six.com: The Future of Megachurches
– One Day At A Time: A Personal Response to the City Harvest Case
– Washington Times: Sg megachurch founder KH on trial in religious freedom test case

– Mothership.sg: What City News highlighted vs What the mainstream media reported
– Blogging For Myself: Long Live City Harvest Church?
– Redwire Times: Sun Ho Make it in America? You Must be Kidding, says Judge!
– My Sg News: City Harvest – 6 top leaders, including Pastor Kong Hee found guilty
– Musings from the Lion City: The Verdict Is In
– New Nation: Sun Ho to remake of China Wine, new song to be called China Beer
– PlastyTalk: Did City Harvest’s Sun Ho undergo plastic surgery?
– A Singaporean Says: Reprise: Tears in Heaven