Chew had told media and supporter he was preparing for jail

Former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han at court earlier this month. He said his family found it hard to accept the ruling.
Former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han at court earlier this month. He said his family found it hard to accept the ruling.

With three weeks to go to his prison term, former City Harvest Church (CHC) fund manager Chew Eng Han said he was going to "pray, pray, pray" to prepare himself for jail, adding that he was relieved the legal process was over.

In WhatsApp messages to The Straits Times on Feb 1, shortly after a court hearing that confirmed he would be imprisoned for three years and four months for misusing church funds, Chew, 57, insisted he was innocent and that the truth would prevail one day.

Chew said if he truly felt he was guilty, "it would be easier to serve the sentence". He added his family found it hard to accept the ruling.

"But there is nothing I can do about it, of course. If I did misappropriate money, I would see the sentence as a way of repenting," said Chew, who has two children aged 17 and 27.

The former CHC leader was once a Business Times journalist and later ran his own fund management business, which went belly up. He was first arrested in 2012 along with CHC founder Kong Hee.

The loyal CHC follower rose quickly through the church ranks and, with his wife, donated "hundreds of thousands" of dollars to a trust fund that comprised personal donations or "love gifts" from about 40 of Kong's closest supporters, from 2007 to 2009.

Chew left the church in 2013, partly because he felt Kong and his wife had misled a small group of donors who had been supporting the couple's livelihood.

In April last year, his request to be allowed to travel to Perth, Australia, to be with his wife and daughter was rejected. Chew is the only one of the six former CHC leaders who had not started his jail term.

Last July, his first attempt to refer 58 questions to the apex court was rejected and a second try to reopen his conviction was rejected by the Court of Appeal two months later.

Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang said the application was "plainly abusive", and Chew was essentially rehashing a point he had made in his previous application.

Chew was trying to delay his entry to prison and had been posting on Facebook right up till last Thursday - mainly about the subject of injustice.

Former CHC members and friends were stunned by news of his escape attempt yesterday, a day before he was to start his jail term.

Former church executive member Jean-Jacques Lavigne described Chew's actions as "silly". The businessman had testified as Chew's witness during the trial. Mr Lavigne said he saw Chew in the past few days, and he appeared "okay" and was "mentally preparing himself for jail".

Another former church member, who gave her name as Ms P.L., 53, said: "He probably feels justified doing this, but this doesn't take away from the fact that he is wrong."

Referring to his accomplices, she added: "He has now implicated more people."

• Additional reporting by Tan Tam Mei and Selina Lum


Others who fled Singapore

DAVID JAMES ROACH

Canadian David James Roach, suspected of robbing a Standard Chartered Bank branch of $30,000 in 2016, fled to Bangkok but was arrested three days later.

He was given 14 months in jail in Thailand last June for violating money-laundering and Customs laws. Media reports said Roach was being deported from Bangkok to Canada and in transit in London when he was arrested on Jan 11. His extradition from Britain is being sought by Singapore.

DAVID RASIF

Former lawyer David Rasif disappeared in June 2006 with $11.3 million of clients' money. He was last seen in Bangkok.

MICHAEL MCCREA

Former financial adviser Michael McCrea was wanted for the murder of his chauffeur Kho Nai Guan and Mr Kho's girlfriend Lan Ya Ming in January 2002.

The Briton fled to London and later Melbourne, where he was arrested in June 2002. He spent the next three years contesting his extradition to Singapore, which Australia eventually allowed. McCrea was charged in Singapore and jailed for 24 years.

TAN CHOR JIN

On Feb 15, 2006, Tan Chor Jin, known as One-Eyed Dragon as he was blind in one eye, barged into nightclub owner Lim Hock Soon's flat in Serangoon and fired a pistol at him. Mr Lim died. Tan also robbed the victim and his family.

Later that morning, Tan made his way across the Causeway. He was arrested by the Malaysian police in Kuala Lumpur 10 days later and sent back to Singapore.

RICHARD YONG

Former National Kidney Foundation (NKF) chairman Richard Yong was one of four former NKF board members sued by its new leadership in January 2007 for failing in their duties.

He conceded defeat but failed to pay damages amounting to about $900,000, and was made a bankrupt on May 16.

But the next day, Yong fled to Malaysia with his wife without the approval of the Official Assignee. They later went to Hong Kong, where he was arrested in July the same year and repatriated to Singapore.

Melody Zaccheus

• Source: ST and TNP files

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2018, with the headline 'Chew had told media and supporter he was preparing for jail'. Print Edition | Subscribe