Tuesday, 25 April 2017

5 CHC Leaders begin jail terms


As heavy rain bore down yesterday, City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee (above) arrived at the State Courts to surrender & begin his 3½-year jail term.

Looking sombre, Kong, 52, was the first to turn up among the 5 church leaders due to start their sentences yesterday after they were convicted of misappropriating millions in church funds. At about 8.30am, he told reporters: "I am totally at peace & I am grateful to God for this. I have nothing more to say, just let me thank my friends."

Kong then spoke individually to some 20 church members gathered outside the courtroom. Some were teary-eyed as Kong hugged them & shook their hands.

related:
CHC leaders' sentences reduced on less serious charges
Some City Harvest Church leaders disappointed despite reduced jail terms
City Harvest appeal: Reduced sentences for all six church leaders
City Harvest's Sharon Tan to start sentence earlier

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5 City Harvest Church leaders surrender, begin jail terms
City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee arrives at the State Courts to surrender to the authorities and start serving his jail term on April 21, 2017. Foto: Jason Quah / TODAY

2 weeks after the verdict of their appeal was passed, 5 out of 6 City Harvest Church leaders surrendered themselves at the State Courts on Friday morning (April 21) to start their jail term.

Kong Hee, the church's founder, was the first to arrive at about 8.30am. A group of over 30 supporters waited outside the court room to greet & hug him.

"I'm totally at peace, and grateful to God. I've nothing more to say," Kong, 52, said in brief remarks to the media.

related:
City Harvest appeal: Kong Hee, 5 former church leaders given lower jail terms
Kong Hee apologises for ‘unwise decisions’, says ‘at peace’ with jail term
CHC case: Chew Eng Han defers jail sentence, Sharon Tan to start hers on April 21

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What the City Harvest Church leaders can expect in Changi prison
City Harvest Church founder and senior pastor Kong Hee walks towards The State Courts on April 21, 2017.ST FOTO: MARK CHEONG

The 5 City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders, who began serving their jail sentences at Changi Prison yesterday, will step into a place with which their church has had dealings for many years.

CHC has been providing chapel services & support group sessions at Changi prison since 2001. The Straits Times understands, however, that the convicted leaders will probably not have access to their own church's services to ensure there is no "conflict of interest".

If they want, however, CHC leader Kong Hee & the others will be able to attend Christian counselling services offered by other churches.

related: Six church leaders get reduced jail terms, Kong Hee gets 3.5 years

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Five CHC former leaders surrendered themselves at the State Courts to start jail term

5 out of 6 City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders surrendered themselves at the State Courts on Friday morning (21 April). They will be transported to prison to start their jail terms, ranging from 7 months to 3 and a half years.

The former leaders were convicted in 2015 after a 140-day trial for misappropriating S$50 million of church funds and were initially sentenced to jail terms between 21 months & 8 years.

The High Court has reduced the sentences of all 6 former leaders on Friday (7 April) in favour of their appeal.

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City Harvest case: Legal costs may run up to record $15m for criminal trial
Each of the five defendants who still has a counsel could incur up to $1m more in lawyers' fees

The most expensive criminal trial in Singapore's history is set to get even more expensive.

Lawyers' fees for the 142-day City Harvest Church (CHC) trial at the State Courts, from its start in May 2013 to sentencing in Nov 2015, had previously been estimated to cost more than $10 million.

But this could rise by between $1 million & $5 million more, now that the prosecution has referred the case to the Court of Appeal.

related: CHC founder Kong Hee's 'temporary' Sentosa Cove home remains unsold

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City Harvest lawyers to study AGC filings before next move
City Harvest Church (CHC) founder & senior pastor Kong Hee (centre) leaving the Supreme Court last Friday with his lawyer, Mr Edwin Tong, in front of him. Kong has said through his lawyer that he will study the filing by the Attorney-General's Chambers carefully before considering the next move.ST FOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The dust is far from settled for the 6 City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders convicted of multi-million-dollar fraud, as the prosecution gears up for another battle in court.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) has now filed a criminal reference with the Court of Appeal, raising "questions of law of public interest" that had arisen with a High Court 3-judge panel's ruling on the case.

The 6 involved and their lawyers appeared to be studying the latest development, with senior pastor Kong Hee, 52, saying through his lawyer Edwin Tong that he would look at the filing carefully before considering the next move.

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Chew Eng Han's jail term deferred, Sharon Tan to start early

Requests by former City Harvest Church leaders Chew Eng Han & Sharon Tan regarding the starting of their sentences were granted by the High Court on Wed (Apr 19), 2 days before Chew was due to begin serving his 3-year-&-4-month sentence.

Chew, who was supposed to start his jail term on Friday, asked the court to defer his sentence until after a Court of Appeal case brought by the prosecution to clarify the law under which he and 5 other church leaders were convicted.

He also said he plans to take his case to the apex court, and is expected to apply for leave to refer a question of law to the Court of Appeal by May 5.

related: City Harvest Church 'deeply saddened' by appeal decision

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City Harvest appeal: Kong Hee's sentence reduced to 3.5 years

In a split decision on Fri (Apr 7), the High Court cut City Harvest Church’s pastor Kong Hee’s 8-year jail term to 3-and-a-half years, along with those of 5 others convicted of misappropriating about S$50 million of church funds.

Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin & Justice Woo Bih Li, in the majority, convicted Kong & 5 accomplices of reduced charges, resulting in significantly reduced sentences for the 6. Justice Chan Seng Onn dissented.

All 6 were in court on Friday to hear the outcome of their appeal against both their conviction & sentences after being found guilty in Oct 2015.

related: Why judges ruled to reduce the jail terms of City Harvest Church leaders

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Jail term cut for City Harvest Church leader in pop music fraud case

Singapore's high court on Friday cut the jail sentence for the co-founder of one of the city-state's most popular churches, after he appealed his conviction & sentence for misusing millions of dollars to support of his wife's pop singing career.

The Court of Appeal sentenced Kong Hee, 52, head of City Harvest Church (CHC), to 3-1/2 years for criminal breach of trust & falsification of accounts, reducing the e8 years term he got in Oct 2015. Other 5 church leaders also had their sentences reduced.

Kong was found guilty of misusing $50 million of church money to fund his wife's musical career. Local media said it was the largest amount of charity funds ever misappropriated in Singapore.

related: City Harvest appeal: 5 key questions about the judgment

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AGC applies to take case to Court of Appeal

The prosecution in the City Harvest Church (CHC) case has filed a Criminal Reference today to the Court of Appeal.

A statement from the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said: "Having carefully considered the written grounds, the Prosecution is of the view that there are questions of law of public interest that have arisen out of the High Court's decision, including & in particular, whether a director or a member of the governing body of a company or organisation who is entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, is so entrusted in the way of his business as an agent for the purposes of Section 409 of the Penal Code."

"The Prosecution has accordingly filed a Criminal Reference today, to refer these questions of law to the Court of Appeal."

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AGC refers City Harvest case to Court of Appeal

The prosecution in the City Harvest case has filed a "criminal reference" to the Court of Appeal, to clarify the law under which the High Court made its decision to cut the jail terms of all 6 church leaders, said the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) in a statement on Mon (Apr 10).

In a split decision, the High Court had on Friday convicted church founder and pastor Kong Hee and 5 others of reduced charges. That had an impact on their sentences which were more or less halved.

The 6 church leaders were found guilty in 2015 of misappropriating S$50 million of church funds, and originally convicted of the most aggravated form of Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) under section 409 of the Penal Code.

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GYRATING POP STARS, EMBEZZLEMENT AND FAITH: SINGAPORE’S CITY HARVEST CHURCH SCANDAL HEADED FOR THE TOP COURT

The fraud scandal that has for years engulfed Singapore’s City Harvest Church has all the elements of a hit white-collar Netflix crime drama: faith, money, embezzlement, pop music and a touch of sleaze – there might even be a fresh plot twist to come.

The main protagonist, the church’s founder and lead pastor Kong Hee, 52, was back in the spotlight this week after the High Court halved an eight-year jail sentence meted out to him in 2015 for his part in siphoning nearly S$50 million (HK$278 million) from the organisation to finance his wife’s failed bid to become a global pop star.

In a society with little tolerance for graft – Singapore is one of the world’s least corrupt places – the sentence reduction raised eyebrows, particularly among those who question whether Kong and the five others implicated in the case got off lightly because of their ability to afford expensive top-tier lawyers.

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Sing when you’re sinning?

Six Christian church leaders in Singapore have been convicted of fraud for using US$36 million to turn the pastor’s glamorous singer wife into a global pop star to attract more followers.

 After a two-year trial that captivated Singapore with tales of lavish spending and financial deceit, pastor Kong Hee and five aides were found guilty Wednesday of diverting S$24 million (HK$133.8 million) to finance his wife Sun Ho’s singing career, which failed to take off.

 The six, who insisted the project was conceived for religious reasons, were also found guilty of misappropriating another S$26 million from the evangelical City Harvest Church (CHC) to cover their tracks, prosecutors said. Ho, 43, who appeared in a 2007 music video with rapper Wyclef Jean in an attempt to cross over from Mandarin pop and reach a wider English-language audience, was not charged.

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related:
City Harvest Church appeal against conviction
Sentence of City Harvest Church leaders
Verdict of City Harvest Church Trial
Mega Church Scandal In Singapore