Charities watchdog acts to oust City Harvest leaders

The Commissioner of Charities (COC) is acting to remove eight leaders of City Harvest Church, including its founder Kong Hee, from office. This is after they were suspended last year by COC following an inquiry which revealed there was mismanagement of funds at the church.

The eight are: board member Kong Hee; board chairman and trustee Lam Leng Hung; vice-chairman and trustee Tan Ye Peng; executive director of the church's administration division Kelvin Teo Meng How; and executive members Sharon Tan Shao Yuen; Chew Eng Han; Jacqueline Tan Su Pheng and Serina Wee Gek Yin.

If the COC is successful in removing them - with the consent of the Attorney General - four of the key office-holders will no longer be allowed to hold any office positions in City Harvest Church or any other charities for life.

Six of them - Kong, Lam, Tan Ye Peng, Sharon Tan, Chew and Wee - are also facing criminal proceedings for allegedly embezzling more than $50 million from their parish. Their trial starts on May 15.

COC has given notice to the eight it plans to remove, and they are allowed to make representations by May 13. Members of the public can also make representations on the COC's proposal to remove Kong, Lam, Tan Ye Peng and Mr Teo, who are governing board members or key office-holders.

COC said it is acting to protect the estimated $103 million assets of the church. It launched an investigation in 2010 which found that there was misconduct in the church's administration.

COC said there was insufficient evidence that Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun, who was suspended as an employee of the church last August, was responsible for what happened. Her suspension will lapse in August.

When contacted, Kong said he was surprised at the COC's decision to try to remove him and his colleagues from office, as the COC "has never explained how the church's property is allegedly at risk", such that it was necessary to suspend and now remove some members. But he is confident that there is "no basis for the COC's actions and I will in due course make the appropriate representations to the COC".