Kong Hee and City Harvest leaders back in court: 5 things about the case

Clockwise from top left: Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, Serina Wee, John Lam, Chew Eng Han, Sharon Tan.
Clockwise from top left: Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, Serina Wee, John Lam, Chew Eng Han, Sharon Tan.PHOTOS: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The marathon City Harvest Church (CHC) trial turned to its final chapter on Thursday (Sept 15), as the prosecution and six church leaders tendered their appeals to the High Court.

The six who have been convicted - including CHC founder Kong Hee - are contesting their convictions and sentences, while the prosecution is appealing for longer deterrent sentences.

The appeal continued on Friday (Sept 16) and will continue for the first three days of next week (Sept 19 to 21).

Here's a recap of Singapore's largest charity financial scandal:

1. Who are the six church leaders?

Six church leaders were found guilty in October 2015 of misusing around $50 million in church funds. All six were handed jail terms of between 21 months and eight years in November.

Kong Hee, 52, CHC founder

Convicted of: Three charges of criminal breach of trust

Sentence: Eight years

Chew Eng Han, 55, former CHC fund manager

Convicted of: Six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts

Sentence: Six years

Tan Ye Peng, 43 , founding member and deputy senior pastor

Convicted of: Six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts

Sentence: Five and a half years

Serina Wee, 39, former CHC finance manager

Convicted of: Six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts

Sentence: Five years

John Lam, 47, former CHC finance committee member

Convicted of: Three charges of criminal breach of trust

Sentence: Three years

Sharon Tan, 40, former CHC finance manager who took over from Wee

Convicted of: Three charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts

Sentence: 21 months

2. What did they do?

They were convicted of misusing church funds, in a project called Crossover, to further the music career of pastor-singer Ho Yeow Sun, the wife of Kong.

This was done by funnelling $24 million into sham bonds to bankroll Ms Ho's career. The accused then misused a further $26 million to cover their tracks.

3. How did it work?

The Crossover project was conceived by Kong as a way of spreading his church's message through popular culture.

 
 

The project was initially funded directly by the church, but in 2003 church member Roland Poon alleged that the church's building fund had been used to finance Ms Ho's music career. Mr Poon later retracted the allegations and apologised.

Music production company Xtron was then set up to manage Ms Ho. It had its own directors, but it was allegedly Kong alone who made decisions regarding his wife's music career and how much to spend.

When auditors raised concerns about Xtron, funds began to be directed to another company - glass manufacturer Firnas.

A total of $24 million was invested in bonds from Xtron and Firnas that were in fact used to fund the Crossover Project, the court found.

Another $26 million from church funds were later used to offset the bonds.

4. What is the prosecution calling for?

The prosecution had called for stiffer sentences than those passed.

They are now appealing for sentences ranging from five to 12 years for the six.

Lawyers said that this move by the prosecution forced the defence to submit appeals for lighter sentences.

5. How long was the trial?

Criminal investigation into the case began in 2010.

The trial stretched over 142 days, from its start in 2013 to sentencing in November 2015. It is one of the longest criminal cases in history, beaten only by a drug trafficking case in the 1990s that went on for 168 days.

The case is also likely to be the costliest criminal trial here. Legal fees for the six church leaders could exceed $10 million, said lawyers.