City Harvest case: 6 church leaders back in court on Aug 1 for criminal reference hearing

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.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The six former City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders found guilty of misusing millions in church funds are due to appear before a five-judge Court of Appeal on Tuesday (Aug 1).

The criminal reference for the case is fixed for hearing, not before 10am, before Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash, and Justices Belinda Ang, Quentin Loh and Chua Lee Ming.

Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair will be presenting the prosecution's case.

On April 7, CHC founder Kong Hee, 52, and five others had their jail terms slashed for criminal breach of trust (CBT), following a split decision by the High Court.

They were cleared of the more serious form of CBT as agents, under Section 409 of the Penal Code, and instead found guilty of simple CBT under Section 406.

Their initial jail terms of between 21 months and eight years were reduced to between seven months and 3½ years.

Kong and four others began serving their sentences on April 21. Tuesday's hearing will be the first time in three months the five will be seen publicly.

The prosecution had filed a criminal reference on April 10 to seek for a definitive ruling on questions of law of public interest as well as to ask the apex court to reinstate the original convictions.

In particular, the prosecution is asking whether a director or member of an organisation's governing body who is entrusted with property, or dominion over property, is in the way of his business as an "agent".

Former fund manager Chew Eng Han, who is representing himself, was allowed to suspend his sentence to apply for permission to file his own criminal reference.

Earlier in July, the 56-year-old's application was rejected by the court, which said the questions he had raised did not meet the required threshold.

A criminal reference is a rare legal procedure that has been invoked only 21 times from 2007 to 2016.

The judges, in a criminal reference, have the power to quash the conviction, make no orders to the acquittal or conviction, or order a retrial by the lower court.

The decision of the Court of Appeal in a criminal reference is final.

In response to queries, a CHC spokesman said that the “church has been praying for Pastor Kong and the others in the months, weeks and days leading up to (today)” and that they will continue to do so.