City Harvest verdict: AGC to take case to Court of Appeal

Clockwise from top left: Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, Serina Wee, John Lam, Chew Eng Han, Sharon Tan.
Clockwise from top left: Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, Serina Wee, John Lam, Chew Eng Han, Sharon Tan.PHOTOS: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said on Monday (April 10) that it will be taking the case involving the misappropriation of millions in City Harvest Church (CHC) funds to the Court of Appeal on questions of law.

Church founder Kong Hee, 52, and five other leaders had their sentences slashed last Friday after a three-judge High Court panel reduced their convictions for criminal breach of trust (CBT).

The six were originally convicted for CBT as agents, under Section 409 of the Penal Code. But in a two-one split decision, the High Court ruled that the six church leaders are not considered agents under the provision and replaced the offence with basic criminal breach of trust, under Section 406.

In a statement on Monday, the AGC said: "Having carefully considered the written grounds, the prosecution is of the view that there are questions of law of public interest that have arisen out of the High Court's decision, including and in particular, whether a director or a member of the governing body of a company or organisation who is entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, is so entrusted in the way of his business as an agent for the purposes of section 409 of the Penal Code.

"The prosecution has accordingly filed a criminal reference today, to refer these questions of law to the Court of Appeal."

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, the Court of Appeal, in hearing and determining any questions referred to it, may make such orders as the High Court might have made as the Court of Appeal considers just for the disposal of the case.

The AGC statement said that if the Court of Appeal agrees with its submissions, the prosecution intends to ask the apex court to "reinstate the appellants' original convictions under section 409 of the Penal Code and make necessary and consequential orders in relation to the sentences given".

Kong, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, former finance manager Serina Wee, former finance committee member John Lam, and former finance manager Sharon Tan, were originally sentenced to between 21 months and eight years' jail.

They 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.

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 appealed for higher sentences. The six appealed against their conviction and sentences.

On Friday, the jail terms were drastically reduced.

Kong's original sentence of eight years was cut to 3½ years.

Tan Ye Peng, 44, had his 5½ years in jail cut to three years and two months.

Former fund manager Chew Eng Han, 56, who originally got six years in jail, had it reduced to three years and four months. Former finance manager Serina Wee, 40, had her five-year jail term halved to 2½ years.

The three-year sentence of former finance committee member John Lam, 49, was also halved. Former finance manager Sharon Tan, 41, will be jailed for seven months instead of 21 months.