Kong Hee thanks City Harvest Church members for support

At the City Harvest Church service yesterday, Pastor Kong Hee (above) acknowledged his worshippers' pain and thanked them for being there for him and the other five church leaders who were sentenced.
At the City Harvest Church service yesterday, Pastor Kong Hee (above) acknowledged his worshippers' pain and thanked them for being there for him and the other five church leaders who were sentenced.

He tells worshippers that he and his family are fine and living each day by faith

A day after being convicted last month of misusing $50 million in church funds, City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee apologised to his flock for the "pain and turmoil" they had to endure.

Yesterday, a day after he was sentenced to eight years in jail for the crime, the senior pastor stood on the same sleek stage at the Suntec Convention Centre once again.

In front of a cheering crowd of worshippers who packed the auditorium, he said: "My family and I, we are fine. We are just living each day by faith."

 

He told them that he appreciated their love and support, and also thanked them on behalf of the other five church leaders who were each sentenced to between 21 months and six years in jail. It was unclear if they were present at yesterday's evening service.

Deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng was given five-and-a-half years' jail. Former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han was handed a six-year prison term. For former CHC finance committee member John Lam, it was three years behind bars.

PASTOR'S PRAYER

I know that this is a painful time, not just for us... but also for everyone associated to this ministry. As this court trial has come to a close, I pray that all the pain and turmoil for you will come to an end

PASTOR KONG HEE

And former CHC finance managers Serina Wee and Sharon Tan were given sentences of five years and 21 months, respectively.

Judge See Kee Oon, who handed out the sentences, had described 51-year-old Kong as the mastermind behind the conspiracy to cause wrongful loss to the church: "It was from him that the other accused persons sought approval and guidance."

So far, only Chew has indicated he will appeal. The other five are considering their options.

Yesterday evening's church service began with a band leading the worshippers, many of whom seemed to be in their 20s and 30s, through several upbeat worship songs, before Kong went up on stage.

"I know that this is a painful time, not just for us... but also for everyone associated to this ministry. As this court trial has come to a close, I pray that all the pain and turmoil for you will come to an end."

 

He also told the church members that because of the trial, he "should not be preaching" this weekend - before inviting Australian pastor Phil Pringle on stage.

Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, appeared briefly, as Mr Pringle prayed for the couple together with church members. Later, Kong invited CHC pastor Bobby Chaw and investment committee chairman Rick Chan on stage.

Before the congregation, the duo highlighted a story published in The Straits Times about the church's ongoing civil suit against its former fund manager Chew .

The church is seeking $21 million in unreturned investments, including $4.6 million in interest, from Chew and his firm AMAC Capital Partners. The Straits Times had reported on the High Court's decision to allow Chew to defend himself against the CHC's claim.

Chew's lawyer, Mr A. Rajandran, had argued that CHC should not be allowed to claim the money as the church had, in effect, breached the Moneylenders Act by acting as an unlicensed moneylender.

Judicial Commissioner Chua Lee Ming agreed the loans could hardly have been made for CHC's business as a church and the purpose was "simply to earn a high rate of interest".

Addressing the congregation, Mr Chan gave the church's side of the story. "Many attempts were made by us to recover these investments... Eng Han even gave us a personal guarantee and agreed to an increased rate of interest for these investments. However, despite over four years of negotiation, we were unable to reach any satisfactory resolution."

He referred church members to statements posted on its website on the matter, denying the allegation by Chew that the church had breached the Moneylending Act.

"The board is doing its best to protect the interests of the church," said Mr Chan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 22, 2015, with the headline 'Kong thanks church members for support'. Print Edition | Subscribe