City Harvest case: Shanmugam to make ministerial statement in Parliament

Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said in a Facebook post that the City Harvest Church Court of Appeal ruling was a "serious matter", and that he would be making a ministerial statement on it in Parliament. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam will be making a ministerial statement in Parliament on the Government's position in relation to the City Harvest Church Court of Appeal ruling.

In a Facebook post on Thursday (Feb 1), he noted that the Court of Appeal has ruled on the City Harvest Church matter and included the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) statement on the decision.

"This is a serious matter," he said.

Mr Shanmugam did not specify a date for the ministerial statement. The next Parliament sitting is on Monday.

The minister's response came after a five-judge Court of Appeal dismissed a bid by prosecutors to reinstate the original convictions for church founder Kong Hee and five others convicted of misusing millions in church funds, which would have meant longer jail terms for them.

The Court of Appeal's decision had hinged on the interpretation of provisions in the Penal Code governing criminal breach of trust offences.

In the reading of the decision on Thursday, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang said that if there was any gap in the law, the shaping of the remedy should be left to Parliament.

The court also said that a review of the law was "not only essential" but also "long overdue".

In its response to the ruling, the AGC said that the Court of Appeal had overruled a 1976 High Court decision, which held that company directors could be convicted for criminal breach of trust under Section 409 of the Penal Code.

"That was the position taken consistently by the courts since 1976", said the AGC, until the High Court's split 2-1 decision in April last year, which cleared the six convicted of criminal breach of trust as agents and found them guilty of plain criminal breach of trust under section 406.

The AGC also cited how the Court of Appeal stated in its judgment that a "wide-ranging policy review" of the legislative provisions on criminal breach of trust was "essential" and "long overdue", and that this was a matter for Parliament.

The AGC said it will work with the relevant ministries on the "appropriate revisions to the Penal Code, to ensure that company directors and other persons in similar positions of trust and responsibility are subject to appropriate punishments if they commit criminal breach of trust".

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