City Harvest case

Court rejects former fund manager's criminal reference bid

The Court of Appeal said Chew Eng Han's questions did not satisfy the requirements for a criminal reference.
The Court of Appeal said Chew Eng Han's questions did not satisfy the requirements for a criminal reference.

Former City Harvest Church (CHC) fund manager Chew Eng Han, one of the six found guilty of misusing millions in church money, yesterday lost his bid to fight his conviction before the Court of Appeal.

Chew's application for leave, or permission, to refer questions of law of public interest to the apex court was rejected by the court, which said the questions he had raised did not meet the required threshold.

Chew, 56, who argued his own case, raised 10 broad issues, including the question of whether there can be misappropriation and dishonesty under circumstances in which money is taken away not for personal use, but applied for the owner's use.

The prosecution, represented by Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair, opposed his application. The senior counsel argued that Chew had not raised novel points of law.

Chew was one of six, including CHC founder Kong Hee, who were convicted in 2015 of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and falsification of accounts.

In April, a three-judge High Court panel reduced their CBT charges to a less serious one on appeal. As a result, their jail terms were reduced.

Prosecutors applied for a criminal reference to seek a definitive ruling from the top court on whether directors such as the six should be convicted of plain CBT or the more serious offence of CBT as agents.

Kong, 52; deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 44; former finance manager Serina Wee, 40; former finance committee member John Lam, 49; and former finance manager Sharon Tan, 41, started serving their jail terms on April 21.

Chew was allowed to suspend his sentence of three years and four months' jail until the Court of Appeal's final ruling. He also applied for permission to file his own criminal reference.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal - Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash and Justice Quentin Loh - dismissed the application.

Justice Phang said Chew's questions pertained to the elements of CBT and falsification of accounts, which the High Court had unanimously found were satisfied on the facts of this case. He added that Chew was the only accused person seeking to raise questions of law.

Justice Phang said that in any event, Chew's questions did not satisfy the requirements for a criminal reference.

Separately, Mr Nair will be presenting the prosecution's case at the criminal reference on Aug 1.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2017, with the headline 'Court rejects former fund manager's criminal reference bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe