City Harvest trial: Six church leaders abused the trust placed in them, says prosecution

Kong Hee (second from left) and his lawyer Edwin Tong arriving at the State Courts on Nov 20, 2015.
Kong Hee (second from left) and his lawyer Edwin Tong arriving at the State Courts on Nov 20, 2015.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Had the church funds in the City Harvest trial been misused for personal gain, the sentences called for by the prosecution would have been much higher.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong said this as he opened with his oral arguments on sentencing on Friday (Nov 20).

He was refuting claims from the defence that the sentences called for were too harsh and in excess.

The prosecution has asked for stiff sentences for all six church leaders.

The prosecution recommended a jail sentence of 11 to 12 years each for Kong Hee, 51; Tan Ye Peng, 43; Serina Wee, 39; and Chew Eng Han, 55.

For John Lam, 47, the prosecution asked for a jail sentence of eight to nine years.

The lightest sentence of five to six years was reserved for Sharon Tan, 40


DPP Ong also refuted several claims the defence made, include one in which they said the prosecution had agreed with the "theological legitimacy" of the Crossover Project, a church mission to evangelise through the music of Kong's wife, singer-pastor Ho Yeow Sun.

He told the court that the prosecution's view was that theological legitimacy was not relevant to the case.

He also pointed out that while the Great Commission might be a biblical imperative for Christians, "nothing compelled them to spend $24 million in the manner they did".

DPP Ong was referring to the $24 million in church building funds used to finance the music career of Ms Ho.

He highlighted four aggravating factors for the court to consider.

One, was that this trial involved the misuse of charity funds, and warranted a sentence of general deterrence.

Two, that the six offenders had abused the trust placed in them.

Three, that they exhibited significant premeditation in their planning.

And four, that they had conspired and created cover-ups so their crimes would not be found out.

"(The accused) were part of inner circle of CHC, they were both trusted and trusting," said DPP Ong.

He rebuted that the defence's claims that the six accused were men and women of good character, saying: "How much weight can the good character of a shepherd have if he is also a wolf at the same time?"

Calling on the court to accept the sentences proposed by the prosecution, he pointed out that the defence had made an attempt to "whitewash the accused persons' dishonesty as mere overzealousness".