Five key highlights of the judgment

Kong Hee leaving the court. In meting out the harshest sentence among the six church leaders to Kong, the judges agreed he was the "ultimate leader" of the five others.
Kong Hee leaving the court. In meting out the harshest sentence among the six church leaders to Kong, the judges agreed he was the "ultimate leader" of the five others.ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG, DESMOND FOO
Chew Eng Han leaving the court. In meting out the harshest sentence among the six church leaders to Kong, the judges agreed he was the "ultimate leader" of the five others.
Chew Eng Han leaving the court. In meting out the harshest sentence among the six church leaders to Kong, the judges agreed he was the "ultimate leader" of the five others.ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG, DESMOND FOO
Tan Ye Peng leaving the court. In meting out the harshest sentence among the six church leaders to Kong, the judges agreed he was the "ultimate leader" of the five others.
Tan Ye Peng leaving the court. In meting out the harshest sentence among the six church leaders to Kong, the judges agreed he was the "ultimate leader" of the five others.ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG, DESMOND FOO
Serina Wee (left) and her husband Kenny Low (right) leaving the court. The judges noted that the case should not be seen as a "sinister and malicious attempt" by the six to use the church's funds for their own purposes, despite the huge sum of about
Serina Wee (left) and her husband Kenny Low (right) leaving the court. The judges noted that the case should not be seen as a "sinister and malicious attempt" by the six to use the church's funds for their own purposes, despite the huge sum of about $50 million involved.ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW, DESMOND FOO
John Lam arriving at the court. The judges noted that the case should not be seen as a "sinister and malicious attempt" by the six to use the church's funds for their own purposes, despite the huge sum of about $50 million involved.
John Lam arriving at the court. The judges noted that the case should not be seen as a "sinister and malicious attempt" by the six to use the church's funds for their own purposes, despite the huge sum of about $50 million involved.ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW, DESMOND FOO
Sharon Tan arriving at the court. The judges noted that the case should not be seen as a "sinister and malicious attempt" by the six to use the church's funds for their own purposes, despite the huge sum of about $50 million involved.
Sharon Tan arriving at the court. The judges noted that the case should not be seen as a "sinister and malicious attempt" by the six to use the church's funds for their own purposes, despite the huge sum of about $50 million involved.ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW, DESMOND FOO

WHY WERE THE CBT CHARGES REDUCED?

The court found that City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee, 52, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 44, and former finance committee member John Lam, 49, were not "agents" entrusted with dominion over CHC's funds.

While they held important positions in the church, it does not mean they were offering their "services as an agent to the community at large" or making their living as an agent. This is unlike a banker, a broker or a lawyer.

With this, the aggravated charge of CBT under Section 409 of the Penal Code, which involves CBT by a public servant, banker, merchant or agent, was reduced to a simpler charge under Section 406.

WHY WERE SENTENCES CUT?

The lesser charge of CBT had a "significant impact" in the reduction of the sentences, as the maximum punishments of the two are "markedly different", the court said. The maximum jail terms under Section 406 are less than half that for those under Section 409.

Despite the huge sum of about $50 million involved, the court recognised that there had been no personal gain, among other mitigating factors, and "their fault lies in adopting the wrong means".

 
 
 

WHY WERE THE ACCOUNT FALSIFICATION CHARGES UPHELD?

These were related to entries recorded in the church's accounts in October and early November 2009 showing that the sham bonds purchased by the church's building funds were redeemed. The court held that the accused were aware the entries were false and they intended to defraud.

WHAT DID JUDGES SAY ABOUT KONG HEE?

Kong's role was that of "spiritual leader" of the five others, providing the "overall direction and moral assurance for their actions". Thus, his overall culpability was the greatest.

He was also one of the main players - if not the main one - who had influenced the others into using the church's funds to purchase sham bonds, even if he did not directly participate in redeeming them.

WHAT DID THE DIFFERING JUDGE SAY?

Justice Chan Seng Onn, in differing from Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justice Woo Bih Li, noted there were elements of benefit to Kong and his wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun. There was also permanent financial loss to the church.

Justice Chan called for a dismissal of the appeals for the six accused and prosecution.

Ng Huiwen

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2017, with the headline 'Five key highlights of the judgment'. Print Edition | Subscribe