CITY HARVEST TRIAL

City Harvest Church stalwart queries leadership

Chew asks if board had probed issues raised by Commissioner of Charities

THE rift between City Harvest Church stalwart Chew Eng Han and the church leadership has become more apparent after the two sides were involved in a telling online exchange over the last few days.

It started after Chew announced last Friday that he had decided to leave the church after 17 years.

His departure came as a surprise to many not only because he had been integral to the church's leadership, but also because he did so in the middle of a high-profile corruption trial involving him and five other church leaders.

But those in the know said that Chew, who was once on the church's board and was also its fund manager, had been unhappy with his colleagues for some time now.

A day after the church board put up a statement on its website saying that while it may not understand or agree with his reasons, it wished him well, Chew issued another statement on a blog.

He queried if the board knew about a 4 1/2-hour meeting he and his wife had with church founder Kong Hee and his wife Ho Yeow Sun.

He asked if the board was aware of "some of the issues which I raised and whether there were sincere corrective actions taken since that meeting three months ago".

He also asked if the board had read a report by the Commissioner of Charities (COC) detailing apparent misappropriation of church funds.

That investigation led to the Commissioner suspending the church leaders, including Chew and Kong, last year and subsequently moving to discharge them from office.

"Has the board done an inquiry on the issues named by COC, and satisfied itself fully that there has been no compromise of integrity? If the board has not done so, it cannot state that it knows and believes in the integrity of the senior leadership," the blog entry went on.

Chew's post drew a response from the church yesterday, which said the board had, after "appropriate reviews", satisfied itself "regarding the allegations of integrity, honesty and lifestyle of the senior leadership".

The board also said that it had "full trust in the integrity, honesty and spiritual standing of the pastoral leadership of City Harvest Church".

It explained that it did not want to discuss such allegations further as the trial is going on but added: "There are two sides to every story and all the evidence will be brought up in due time, and the truth will be revealed."

Chew faces six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts. He, Kong, and four other church leaders have been accused of funnelling $24 million of the church's funds into sham bond investments to further the music career of Kong's wife Ho.

They are also accused of trying to cover that up by devising transactions of $26.6 million, known as "round-tripping".

Chew did not respond to queries yesterday. The trial resumes in August.

dawntan@sph.com.sg