City Harvest Church case: Chew Eng Han fails in second bid to challenge conviction

Chew Eng Han, 57, is the only one of the six who has not started serving his jail term for criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Former City Harvest Church (CHC) fund manager Chew Eng Han, 57, one of the six people convicted of misusing millions in church funds, on Wednesday (Sept 6) failed in his second attempt to get the Court of Appeal to reopen his conviction.

"In our judgement, this second application is not only an abuse of process but is also devoid of merit," said Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang as he delivered the decision of the three-judge court to dismiss Chew's bid.

Justice Phang said that the court, which also comprised Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash and Justice Quentin Loh, would have dismissed Chew's application just on the basis that it was filed after the statutory time limit has passed.

But the judge emphasised that the application was "plainly abusive" and that Chew was essentially rehashing a point he had made in his previous application.

Chew is the only one of the six who has not started serving his jail term for criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts.

Church founder Kong Hee, 52; deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 44; former finance manager Serina Wee, 40; former finance committee member John Lam, 49; and former finance manager Sharon Tan, 41, started their respective jail terms on April 21.

The six, initially given jail terms of between 21 months and eight years on the more serious charge, had their sentences reduced to between seven months and 3½ years' jail by the High Court on April 7.

On July 3, Chew's first attempt to refer 58 questions to the apex court was rejected for not meeting the required threshold. He had tried to raise questions on 10 broad areas, including whether a person can be convicted of misappropriation even if he used the money not for himself but for the owner's use.

On Aug 1, he filed another criminal motion seeking leave to raise a single question, on whether his conviction, which he argues is based on an "unprecedented" declaration of law, amounted to a violation of his constitutional rights.

He argued that the CHC case was the first time the courts have pronounced that a person can be convicted for misappropriation for the wrong use of funds for the purpose of the owner, in this case, the church.

Chew argued that during the period of the offences between 2007 to 2009, he would not have known that what he was doing amounted to misappropriation.

Chew argued that his conviction was therefore in breach of Article 11 of the Constitution, which states that "no person shall be punished for an act...which was not punishable by law when it was done".

"How was I supposed to know this is misappropriation?" he told the court on Wednesday. "I'm just asking for justice."

When asked by Justice Phang why he was drip-feeding his arguments, Chew replied: "I'm not drip-feeding, Your Honour. I'm claiming my constitutional rights... I've never been given a fair hearing right from the beginning."

Deputy Public Prosecutor Christoper Ong described Chew's first attempt as a backdoor appeal. "Having knocked on the backdoor once, and having been rightly rejected by Your Honours, he's back at the door knocking again," said the DPP.

The DPP argued that Chew's withholding of the single question and drip-feeding it after his previous ones have been rejected was an attempt to prolong the matter and delay his entry to prison.

The DPP added that Chew's application was out of time and there was no valid reason for why he has filed his application four months after the High Court's decision in April. The statutory time limit stipulates that an application has to be made within one month of the decision.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.