City Harvest supporters form queue outside courthouse before dawn

About 50 staff and members of City Harvest Church have started lining up outside the Subordinate Courts before the crack of dawn on Wednesday for the first day of a highly anticipated trial against six leaders of the church charged with fraud.

Some arrived as early as 11pm on Tuesday night in the hopes of getting a seat in what is expected to be a packed courtroom.

Miss Wendy Fong, 25, a business development manager, who has been in line since 1am, told The Straits Times that the presence of supporters will make an impact on the six accused leaders.

"The church has really blessed us throughout the years. They encouraged us to grow into better people. We're here to support them."

Ms Esther Tok, 36, an executive, and a member for more than 15 years, agreed. She said it is also comforting for them to see familiar faces in the crowd.

Their spiritual leader, founder Kong Hee, and five senior members - Tan Ye Peng, Sharon Tan, Chew Eng Han, Serina Wee and Lam Leng Hung - were arrested and charged last year for allegedly funnelling $24 million into sham bond investments to further the career of Kong's wife, pop-singer Ho Yeow Sun between 2007 and 2008.

Another $26.6 million is said to have been misappropriated to cover up the sham investments.

The six face varying counts of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts. The first offence is punishable with a life sentence, or up to 20 years in prison and a fine. The second carries a maximum of 10 years in jail, a fine or both.

The prosecution has about 10 key witnesses and another nine potential witnesses on its list.

One of the first to take the stand is Ms Lai Baoting, a former assistant accountant of the church.

She was allegedly instructed by church leaders to record false entries in the church's accounts.

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