Saturday, 24 September 2016

City Harvest Church appeal against conviction

City Harvest Church leaders to return to court for appeal
(Clockwise from top left): Tan Ye Peng, Kong Hee, John Lam, Chew Eng Han, Sharon Tan and Serina Wee. (Photo: Ngau Kai Yan)

10 months after they were found guilty of misappropriating S$50 million of church funds, 6 City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders are seeking to have their convictions overturned by the High Court, where their appeals will be heard over 5 days from Thursday (Sep 15) before the panel of 3 judges.

The saga involves the largest amount of charity funds ever misappropriated in Singapore. After a 144-day trial, the 6 were sentenced to between 21 months and 8 years’ jail for using S$24 million of church funds to bankroll the music career of CHC founder Kong Hee’s wife, Ho Yeow Sun.

Then, the leaders misused another S$26 million to cover up the first amount.

related:
Secrecy surrounding Sun Ho's career did not amount to dishonesty: Lawyer
'I thought Sun Ho was a megastar': Chew Eng Han says of church's Crossover Project
City Harvest trial: 21 months to 8 years' jail for leaders
Kong Hee's use of City Harvest Church funds in 'good faith': Defence

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Singapore megachurch pastor Kong Hee appeals for 8-year jail sentence to be overturned as fraud case returns to court

Singapore megachurch pastor Kong Hee has appealed to the High Court to have his 8-year jail sentence overturned as his fraud case returns to court.

On Sep 15, the lawyer of the City Harvest Church (CHC) founder and senior pastor presented his appeal to the High Court. Atty. Edwin Tong said Pastor Kong's convictions for criminal breach of trust should be overturned because the loss was never part of the megachurch pastor's intentions, Channel News Asia details.

In addition, Tong said Pastor Kong had the congregation's support when he funneled money for CHC's mission. The lawyer pointed out that Kong was convicted of misappropriating US$50 million in church funds but he had never pocketed any of that money. In addition, the church did not suffer financial loss because of his actions, an argument that was not disputed by the prosecution.

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'Fraud of the worst kind': Prosecutors seek stiffer jail terms for City Harvest leaders
(Clockwise from top left): Tan Ye Peng, Kong Hee, John Lam, Chew Eng Han, Sharon Tan and Serina Wee. (Foto: Ngau Kai Yan)

6 City Harvest Church leaders who "committed fraud of the worst kind" should be put away for longer, prosecutors argued on Wed (Sep 21).

They said the trial judge had been too lenient, and had "abandoned & ignored" sentencing guidelines by failing to take into account the massive amount of monies involved, among other aggravating factors.

The trial judge had "untethered his sentencing from his moorings", resulting in sentences that are manifestly inadequate, prosecutors said.

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Church leaders showed no remorse, says DPP as he calls for harsher sentences
The 6 City Harvest Church leaders (from top left) Sharon Tan, Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, John Lam, Chew Eng Han & Serina Wee.ST FOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW

Was the City Harvest Church (CHC) project to evangelise through the pop music of Ms Ho Yeow Sun a church purpose, or one that CHC leaders had foisted upon the congregation?

Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong asked the High Court this on Wed (Sep 21) in the ongoing appeal of the 6 CHC leaders at the centre of a multi-million dollar financial scandal.

In October last year, the 6 CHC leaders were convicted of misappropriating millions in church funds to fuel the pop music career of Ms Ho, the wife of CHC senior pastor Kong Hee, in a church mission known as the Crossover Project.

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CHC leaders weaved web of lies: DPP

The 6 City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders deceived church members, auditors and lawyers, and weaved a web of deceit to subvert the church's internal governance bodies.

That was what Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong told the court yesterday morning.

He was responding to the arguments against conviction put forth by the 6 CHC leaders at the centre of a multi-million-dollar financial scandal.

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I was brainwashed by Kong Hee, says former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han

He had been brainwashed into thinking pop singer Ho Yeow Sun would be "a megastar" like American singer Whitney Houston as her husband, City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee, had regularly played up her success.

That was why he had thought the church investments in the financial bonds he had structured to fund her music career were genuine & profitable, former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han, 57, told the High Court yesterday.

He was one of 6 church leaders convicted last October of misappropriating millions in church funds to fuel the pop music career of Ms Ho, in a church mission known as the Crossover Project.

related:
Spending church money on Ho Yeow Sun's music career not wrong, says Serina
Church legally entitled to spend building fund money on Crossover Project: DSP
Prosecution calls for 11 to 12 years' jail for Kong Hee and church leaders
Kong Hee thanks City Harvest Church members for support

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Kong Hee Lawyers: Funneling Church Money Into Wife's Music Career Was in Church's Best Interest

Attorneys for City Harvest Church Pastor Kong Hee now argue the convicted pastor believed he was using church funds for his wife's music career to help his congregation.

"It is beyond question that the accused believed wholeheartedly that they were using church funds for an approved church purpose," lawyer Edwin Tong said.

At the sentencing in November, the judge gave 5 other church leaders—former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han; deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng; ex-finance manager Serina Wee; former finance committee member John Lam; and former finance manager Sharon Tan—prison terms ranging from 21 months to 5 years.

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Pastor Kong Hee's defence: lawyer asks convictions to be overturned

During senior pastor Kong Hee's appeal on Thursday, his lawyer Edwin Tong stated that all 3 charges brought against him for criminal breach of trust needed to be overturned. The hearing was held in a packed courtroom at the High Court, with the pastor's wife Sun Ho present as well.

Kong Hee, along with 5 other leaders of the church, had been convicted last November, and sentenced to prison time ranging from 21 months to 8 years, as Channel News Asia published.

The charges brought against the condemned was one that involved misappropriating $50 million worth of the City Harvest Church's money. Among the 6 members convicted, pastor Kong Hee received the longest sentence of eight years in prison, as he had been accused of 3 charges for conspiracy to commit criminal breach of trust.

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City Harvest appeal: Lawyer says Serina Wee was merely an ‘administrator
City Harvest Church’s former finance manager Serina Wee played a “limited role” in most of the offences, said her lawyer. Foto: Nuria Ling

City Harvest Church’s (CHC) former finance manager Serina Wee was merely an administrator of the Crossover Project – an evangelisation tool using church co-founder Sun Ho’s music to draw the masses – & played a “limited role” in most of the offences, said her lawyer Senior Counsel Andre Maniam.

In his submissions for the appeal, Mr Maniam sought to downplay Wee’s role in the farce, claiming that she had no intention to defraud, & was merely acting in the best interests of the church.

Wee, 40, returned to court on Monday afternoon (Sep 19) as the last of 6 church leaders to mount an appeal against her convictions and sentences. Faced with 6 charges of criminal breach of trust and 4 charges of falsification of accounts, Wee was sentenced to 5 years’ jail in a district court last year for misappropriating over S$50 million of church funds to build Ms Ho’s music career.

related:
City Harvest appeal: Former pastor not proven ‘dishonest’, says his lawyer
City Harvest appeal: Former pastor not proven ‘dishonest’, says his lawyer
Transactions 'beyond reproach' & no personal gain for Kong Hee, says lawyer
City Harvest appeal: Prosecutors call for longer deterrent sentences


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Kong Hee had used City Harvest Church's funds in good faith, lawyer says

Even if if City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee had used church funds for the wrong reasons, he did so in good faith & there was never any dishonesty behind it. Moreover, he did not obtain a single cent for his own gain.

That was the case put forth yesterday by Kong's lawyer Senior Counsel Edwin Tong, in arguing for an overturn of the pastor's 3 convictions for "dishonestly misappropriating" church money.

He also appealed Kong's 8-year jail sentence.

related:
City Harvest Church leaders return to court for appeals
All 6 City Harvest leaders to appeal conviction, sentence
Appeal hearings set for September before a three-judge panel
City Harvest trial: Shocked faces after sentencing
Kong Hee was the mastermind behind the conspiracy

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City Harvest appeal: Former CHC finance manager was kept out of plans on alleged conspiracy, says lawyer
Sharon Tan arriving at the Supreme Court on September 16, 2016. Photo: Robin Choo/TODAY

City Harvest Church’s former finance manager Sharon Tan was only a “mouthpiece” who had “limited understanding” of the alleged conspiracy to misappropriate the mega-church’s funds, or to falsify its accounts, argued defence lawyer Paul Seah on Fri (Sep 16), as he sought to overturn her conviction.

He stressed that Tan — who was last year sentenced to 21 months’ jail for 3 counts of criminal breach of trust and four accounts falsification charges — was not involved in the church’s decision to invest in the bonds at the centre of the conspiracy. Her involvement came about after she took over as the church’s finance manager from Jan 2008. Tan, now 40, had her “entire life built around the church”, said Mr Seah, adding that CHC was the only church she had attended since she became a Christian when she was 15.

“CHC is the bedrock of her life .… She wholeheartedly embraced its mission and vision, including the Crossover Project. Everything she did over the years .… was done with the purest of motives in what she thought to be in CHC’s best interests,” he said.

related:
Prosecutors call for longer deterrent sentences
Transactions 'beyond reproach' & no personal gain for Kong Hee, says lawyer
Bonds were genuine investments,says John Lam
‘Church money meant for a mission cannot be counted as wrong use’


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City Harvest Church leaders in court for appeal hearing
City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee (right) with his wife Sun Ho (left) arriving at the High Court before the CHC appeal hearing. (Photo: Sharlene Sankaran/Yahoo Singapore)

Six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders were at the High Court on Thursday  (15 September) to appeal against their convictions for misappropriating church funds.

CHC founder Kong Hee, his deputy Tan Ye Peng, ex-secretary of the management board John Lam, ex-board member Chew Eng Han, and ex-finance managers Sharon Tan and Serina Wee appeared before a panel of three judges to argue against their conviction and jail terms ranging between 21 months and eight years.

The prosecution for the case is appealing for longer deterrent sentences for the six, who were found guilty on charges including criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts in October last year. They were convicted for misappropriating $50 million in church funds to aid the pop music career of Kong’s wife, Sun Ho.

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Spending church money on Sun Ho's music career not wrong, says Serina Wee

Putting church money into the music career of singer-pastor Ho Yeow Sun was a genuine investment & the church was not wrong to do so. This was what Senior Counsel Andre Maniam told the court on Monday afternoon. He was presenting his client's case - former City Harvest Church (CHC) finance manager Serina Wee, 39.

"My client did not think she was doing anything wrong - if there was an element of financial return, it was an investment," said Mr Maniam.

In October last year, Wee was among 6 CHC leaders convicted of misappropriating millions in church funds to fuel the pop music career of Ms Ho - the wife of CHC founder Kong Hee and one of the 6 - in a church mission known as the Crossover Project.

related:
City Harvest Church trial: Kong Hee sentenced to 8 years' jail
City Harvest Church leaders return to court for appeals

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City Harvest Church leader turned on Pastor Kong Hee

In the high profile corruption case of City Harvest Church, former fund manager Chew Eng Han said that he thought that the pastor’s 44-year-old wife Sun Ho is a “mega-star” and thought that she can evagelise non-Christians with her “songs”:

“The logic is Sun becomes a megastar, (holds more) concerts … then she can evangelise. I thought she was a megastar. In reality, the church had bought up unsold stock of Sun’s albums.”

Chew Eng Han said that he attended two of her concerts and even donated S$1 million to the church, and that he was “brainwashed” by Pastor Kong Hee into believing that his wife is a success.

related: MP Edwin Tong for Pastor Kong Hee: Put funds to wrong use in good faith

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CHC Appeal: The ignorance of Serina Wee and friends
IF ONLY ignorance were a complete defence

As the last remaining two City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders to appeal against their guilty sentences in court today (Sept 19), former finance manager Serina Wee, and deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng stuck mostly to the same script being written in the hearing so far.

“They did not have knowledge that they were not legally entitled to do so,” said Tan’s lawyer, referring to why his client and the other church leaders decided to spend the church’s donations on bonds. Tan was the first of the two to present his case to the three-judge panel in the morning.

Later in the afternoon, when it was Wee’s turn, her lawyer was on cue: “My client did not think she was doing anything wrong – if there was an element of financial return, it was an investment.”

related:
Nice work if you can get it
Church leaders downplay own roles in final attempt to escape jail
Trying to overturn conviction, lawyer argues “no personal gain” for Kong Hee

read more

Where is the sound judgment in CHC court trial?

Calvin Ho, Executive Member of City Harvest Church speaks out on the ongoing appeal of members in his church.

"I am writing this because the whole of City Harvest Church, and all its international affiliate churches, as well as the discerning and learned public, now more than ever, need a loud, truly convincing, and totally defensible answer from the establishment to demonstrate sound moral judgment and consistency of its acts."

“I am writing this, because as an Executive Member of CHC, I can no longer see this unprecedentedly protracted court case go so wrong in the eyes of my conscience, and so unjustified in so many aspects, and to-date still delivers an awful lack of convincing balance of sound, good-conscience judgment.”

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City Harvest Church member explains how lawyer for accused had ‘God moment’

A pioneer member of City Harvest Church (CHC), Teo Hsin Yi, attended the CHC’s trial at the Court of Appeal last Wednesday (21 Sep) and blogged about how one of the lawyers defending the accused, had a ‘God moment’.

In October 2015, six CHC leaders were convicted of misappropriating millions of dollars in church funds to feed the music career of Sun Ho. Sun is the wife of one of the accused and the senior pastor of CHC, Kong Hee. Sun’s music career was funded through the church’s missions endeavour called Project Crossover.

The court found that the six were responsible for investing $24 million from CHC’s building fund in bogus bonds from music production company Xtron and another firm, Firna; but that this money was actually used to fund the Crossover Project. The court heard that the accused used another $26 million to cover up the initial investment.

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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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Full Coverage:
'Fraud of the worst kind': Prosecutors seek stiffer jail terms for CHC leaders
Church leaders showed no remorse, says DPP calls for harsher sentences
CHC leaders weaved web of lies: DPP
CHC Appeal: The prosecutor's 10 best lines from yesterday's hearing
Prosecution seeks to increase CHC leaders' sentences by more than 30 yrs
City Harvest leaders deceived members, auditors, lawyers: DPP
'Lies, falsehoods': Prosecutors respond to City Harvest leaders' appeals

Church leaders weave web of lies to deceive church members, auditors, lawyers

City Harvest leaders abused influence to conduct biggest charity swindle
Prosecution didn't hold back in appeal for longer sentences for Kong Hee & co
City Harvest trial: Ho's music career a genuine investment: Defendants' lawyers
Secrecy surrounding Sun Ho's career did not amount to dishonesty: Lawyer
City Harvest appeal: Lawyer says Serina Wee was merely an 'administrator'
City Harvest appeal: Former pastor not proven 'dishonest', says his lawyer
CHC Appeal: The ignorance of Serina Wee and friends
Megachurch pastor appeals for 8-year jail sentence as fraud case returns to court
Funneling Church Money Into Wife's Music Career Was in Church's Best Interest
Pastor Kong Hee's defence: lawyer asks convictions to be overturned
Church legally entitled to spend building fund money on Crossover Project
Spending church money on Ho Yeow Sun's music career not wrong, says Serina
CHC's Crossover Project reverse Calvary where many sacrificed for one:Sun Ho
CHC Appeal: The ignorance of Serina Wee and friends
Kong Hee's use of City Harvest Church funds in 'good faith': Defence
City Harvest Church leaders to return to court for appeal
Judge delivers sick burn during City Harvest Church appeal hearing
I was brainwashed, says former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han
John Lam was no 'inside man'
It Changed My Life: 77th Street founder Elim Chew forges new path
Nice work if you can get it
A series of moving tales



Sentence of City Harvest Church leaders


City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee said on Facebook on Friday (Nov 27) that he will be filing an appeal against his conviction and jail sentence.

The 51-year-old church leader was found guilty of criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts in October. Ex-finance committee member Lam was sentenced to three years in jail, former finance manager Wee to five years, deputy pastor Tan Ye Peng to five years and six months, and former CHC fund manager Chew to six years. Former finance manager Sharon Tan got the lightest sentence of 21 months in jail.

"I will therefore be preparing to file an appeal against both my conviction and sentence", he said in a Facebook post. The road ahead is long and arduous, but God's grace is sufficient for me.

related:
5 CHC Leaders begin jail terms
City Harvest Church appeal against conviction
Sentence of City Harvest Church leaders
Verdict of City Harvest Church Trial
Mega Church Scandal In Singapore