City Harvest appeal: 4 possible scenarios facing Kong Hee and church leaders

City Harvest Church founder and senior pastor Kong Hee arriving in court.
City Harvest Church founder and senior pastor Kong Hee arriving in court.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Former City Harvest Church finance manager Serina Wee and her husband Kenny Low arriving in court.
Former City Harvest Church finance manager Serina Wee and her husband Kenny Low arriving in court.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Former City Harvest Church finance committee member John Lam arriving in court.
Former City Harvest Church finance committee member John Lam arriving in court.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng arriving in court.
Deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng arriving in court.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Former finance manager Sharon Tan arriving in court.
Former finance manager Sharon Tan arriving in court.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
City Harvest appeal: Chew Eng Han arriving in court.
City Harvest appeal: Chew Eng Han arriving in court.ST PHOTO: T KUMAR
(Clockwise from left) Chew Eng Han, Kong Hee, John Lam, Sharon Tan, Tan Ye Peng and Serina Wee.
(Clockwise from left) Chew Eng Han, Kong Hee, John Lam, Sharon Tan, Tan Ye Peng and Serina Wee.PHOTOS: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Acquittal, harsher sentences, lighter sentences or status quo - these are the possible scenarios facing six City Harvest Church leaders on Friday (April 7) morning.

A three-judge High Court panel will deliver its decision on the appeals by the defence against conviction and sentences, and also appeals by the prosecution for harsher punishment.

In November 2015, the six, including church founder Kong Hee, were handed jail terms ranging from 21 months to eight years in the largest case of misuse of charitable funds in Singapore history.

The six were found guilty, after a marathon trial that started in 2013, of misappropriating millions in church funds to fuel the pop music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, in a church mission known as the Crossover Project.


The entrance to the Supreme Court at 9pm on Thursday (April 6). A three-judge High Court panel will deliver its decision on Friday morning. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

A district court found that they had channelled $24 million from CHC's building fund into sham bonds in music production company Xtron and glass-maker Firna.

This money was in fact used to fund the Crossover Project. Later, another $26 million was used to cover up the initial misdeed.

 
 

The prosecution has appealed for longer jail terms for all six: Kong, 52; deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 44; former finance managers Serina Wee, 40, and Sharon Tan, 41; former finance committee member John Lam, 49; and former fund manager Chew Eng Han, 56.

 

The six have appealed against their conviction and sentences on varying charges of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts.

In September last year, five days were set aside for three judges - Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, and Justices Woo Bih Li and Chan Seng Onn - to hear the appeals.

Given the cross-appeals, a range of possible scenarios can materialise on Friday.

On one end of the spectrum, the six may be acquitted and walk out free men and women if the court agrees with them that no crime has been committed as no wrongful loss was caused to the church.

But they may end up spending a much longer time behind bars, if the court is persuaded by prosecutors that they deserve a harsher punishment for betraying the trust of church members .

Prosecutors have proposed 11 to 12 years' jail for Kong, Tan Ye Peng, Chew and Wee; eight to nine years' jail for Lam; and five to six years' jail for Sharon Tan.

It is also possible for the court to reduce their sentences if it finds that their original sentences were too harsh for what they had done.

Finally, the High Court may uphold the lower court's decision entirely and dismiss all appeals.

But even after the verdict is delivered, both sides have further legal recourse in what is known as a criminal reference. The procedure allows either side to bring the case higher by asking the Court of Appeal to make a ruling on a question of law of public interest.

However, the court can decline to make a ruling if it finds that the question submitted is not a question of law of public interest.