City Harvest case: April trial likely

THE trial of six leaders of City Harvest Church is likely to be at the end of April.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong told reporters after a pre-trial conference yesterday that the first discovery conference - a meeting between the defence and prosecution to exchange information regarding the case - will be held on Jan 31.

It is understood that this would put the trial date somewhere near end-April.

The mega church's senior pastor Kong Hee, 47, and five other key ministry leaders were arrested and charged in June last year with conspiring to cheat the church of millions of dollars.

They are alleged to have funnelled $24 million into sham bond investments to further the music career of Kong's pop singer-wife Ho Yeow Sun, 42.

They are also alleged to have misappropriated a further $26.6 million in church funds to cover up the first amount.

Besides Kong, the others charged are his deputy Tan Ye Peng, 39; church finance manager Sharon Tan, 36; church investment manager Chew Eng Han, 52; former church finance manager Serina Wee, 35; and church management board member John Lam Leng Hung, 44.

Kong and Lam each faces three charges of criminal breach of trust while the others face between seven and 10 charges of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts.

None of the six defendants was present yesterday at the pre-trial conference at the Subordinate Courts. All six have indicated that they are likely to plead not guilty and will claim trial.

The trial date may also be affected by an application for a Queen's Counsel expected to be filed by Chew this month.

Last month, he told The Straits Times that he would be filing an application for a top British lawyer to represent him in court, after being unable to find a Senior Counsel here to represent him.

The firm he had originally hired, Rajah and Tann, was discharged from representing him in court in October, as it was one of the firms involving in drawing up the original documents for the bond investments.

The other five defendants from the 23,000-strong church are being represented by Senior Counsel, the local equivalent of Queen's Counsel.