Ex-CHC leader Serina Wee released from jail

Ms Serina Wee, seen here in a 2016 photo, was released from prison on Dec 21. The former City Harvest Church finance manager had been sentenced to 30 months in jail for her role in the misuse of church funds. Inmates are typically given a one-third r
Ms Serina Wee, seen here in a 2016 photo, was released from prison on Dec 21. The former City Harvest Church finance manager had been sentenced to 30 months in jail for her role in the misuse of church funds. Inmates are typically given a one-third remission of their jail term for good behaviour.ST FILE PHOTO

She is third former City Harvest Church leader to complete jail term for misappropriating funds

Ms Serina Wee, who was sentenced to 30 months in jail for her role in the largest case of misuse of charitable funds in Singapore's history, has been released from prison.

The Singapore Prison Service confirmed to The Straits Times yesterday that the former City Harvest Church (CHC) finance manager, who started her sentence on April 21 last year, was released from custody on Dec 21.

Inmates are typically given a one-third remission of their jail term for good behaviour.

Her husband, Mr Kenny Low, declined comment when contacted about her release.

Ms Wee, who turned 42 on Dec 14, is the third of six former CHC leaders to complete their sentence for their roles in the misappropriation of millions in church funds.

Former finance manager Sharon Tan, 43, who was given seven months in jail, and former finance committee member John Lam, 50, who was given 18 months in jail, had been released earlier.

During the marathon trial, which started in 2013, it was revealed that the leaders had channelled $24 million from the church's building fund into sham bond investments to fund the pop career of founder-pastor Kong Hee's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun. They then devised a series of "round-tripping" transactions to throw auditors off the track by misappropriating a further $26 million.


Clockwise from top left: Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, Serina Wee, John Lam, Sharon Tan and Chew Eng Han, on Feb 1, 2018. PHOTOS: ST FILE

In 2015, the six - including Kong Hee, 54, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 46, and former fund manager Chew Eng Han, 58 - were given jail terms ranging from 21 months to eight years for criminal breach of trust.

Ms Wee, who started working at CHC in 1999, had been the administrator of the Crossover Project, the church's plan to spread the Gospel through Ms Ho's music, and was found guilty of six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts.

During the trial, Ms Wee's lawyer Andre Maniam had highlighted her limited role in the scheme, and described her as a mere follower, and not someone who was a priest or pastor commanding respect in the community. "Before she was charged, it is safe to say that society did not even know who she was," he said.

 
 
 

Judge See Kee Oon, in handing down the guilty verdict, said that while the likes of Ms Wee were acting in accordance with the instructions of people they considered to be their spiritual leaders, that did not exonerate an accused person from criminal liability if all the elements of an offence are made out.

On April 7 last year, the jail terms of all involved were slashed to between seven months and 3½ years after a three-judge High Court panel ruled that they were guilty of a less serious form of criminal breach of trust. Kong Hee's jail sentence was reduced from eight years to 3½ years.

All except Chew started serving their jail terms on April 21 last year.

On Feb 1 this year, a five-judge Court of Appeal upheld the reduced sentences in a landmark decision that hinged on the interpretation of provisions in the Penal Code governing criminal breach of trust offences.

Later that month, Chew was nabbed at sea a day before he was due to begin serving his prison sentence of three years and four months.

He was convicted earlier this month of attempting to leave Singapore illegally and attempting to defeat the course of justice.

Ms Wee and Mr Lam were struck off as members of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants on April 9 this year.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2018, with the headline 'Ex-CHC leader Serina Wee released from jail'. Print Edition | Subscribe