One of the City Harvest leaders on trial leaves church

Its former investment manager hints at differences with leadership on blog

ONE of the six City Harvest Church leaders on trial for allegedly embezzling millions of church funds has quit the church.

Chew Eng Han, 52, the church's former investment manager, issued a lengthy statement on a blog yesterday which alluded to the fact that he could not see eye to eye with the leadership of the church.

When contacted, he told The Straits Times that his move was prompted by "a collision of primarily spiritual and moral principles". He said he had not been in touch with the other leaders, and was unaware of how they felt about his departure. He also said he no longer had any ties with City Harvest and had no immediate plans to find another church.

Chew faces six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts in a high-profile trial involving the megachurch. He was arrested last year along with church founder Kong Hee and charged over funnelling $24 million of the church's funds into sham bond investments to further the career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun.

They were also said to have tried to cover that up by devising transactions of $26.6 million, known as "round-tripping".

Chew said leaving was a difficult decision he had thought about and prayed over for months. He joined the church in 1996 and was a member of the church's board from 1999 to 2007, where he held various positions, including vice-president and treasurer.

He also served on its investment committee, and was the one who registered Xtron Productions, the company that managed Ms Ho's music career.

In his statement, he said that if "certain events had not overtaken this wonderful experience", he would have continued to stay with the only church he has known.

"In the end, principles such as accountability, honesty, fair-dealing, justice and truth will for me take precedence over position, popularity, recognition and acceptance," he wrote.

Speaking to The Straits Times, he said: "My wish for all my friends in CHC is that they continue to love and serve God, regardless of man's failings."

He added that many had left before him "either in silence or to end up hiding behind the Internet to vent their feelings".

"I do not want to make the same mistake as them... It is better to be transparent with one's feelings. Perhaps some good can come out of this."

Those close to the church's leadership said a divide within the ranks started to show after the six were arrested and charged with embezzlement. During the trial, Chew barely spoke to Kong or the other four accused.

Last night, a church spokesman said: "We are saddened by Eng Han's decision to leave. He has been a part of this family for 17 years and has contributed much to the church. We may not understand or agree with his reasons, but we do wish him and his family the best."