SINGAPORE - A court has convicted former City Harvest Church (CHC) leader Chew Eng Han of attempting to leave Singapore illegally from an unauthorised point of departure.
On Wednesday (Dec 12), District Judge Victor Yeo also found Chew, 58, guilty of attempting to defeat the course of justice by boarding a motorised boat at the Pulau Ubin jetty on Feb 21 to try to avoid his jail sentence.
Chew had earlier been sentenced to three years and four months’ jail for his role in the misuse of church funds of millions of dollars.
Five other CHC leaders - including founder-pastor Kong Hee - who were also convicted of misusing church funds, began serving their terms in April last year.
Following a trial in September, Deputy Public Prosecutors Christopher Ong and Eugene Sng stated in their submissions that Chew admitted during investigations that he wanted to leave Singapore as he “felt injustice for (his) high court case”.
The former church leader also said that he wanted to leave the country “through (his) own means” as he did “not want to be convicted”.
The prosecutors said that the escape plan involved a two-legged journey.
“On the first leg, the accused would get on a boat in the vicinity of Changi. This boat was to travel towards four fish farms, which were in Singapore waters at the north-east part of Pulau Ubin, close to the boundary between Singapore and Malaysian waters.”
After that, at an area referred to as “Point B”, Chew would embark on the second leg by transferring to a second boat, which would then take him out of Singapore waters.
The court heard that Point B was less than a minute by boat from the boundary between Singapore and Malaysia territorial waters. Chew was caught before he reached Point B.
The prosecutors told the judge that by getting on the boat at the Pulau Ubin jetty, Chew had “embarked on the crime proper” to leave Singapore at an unauthorised place.
They said: “The accused had done everything he could to leave Singapore at an unauthorised place, short of embarking onto the second boat. It was only because the boat was intercepted by the PCG (Police Coast Guard) that he failed in his endeavour to leave Singapore illegally.”
Defence lawyer Adrian Wee, however, told Judge Yeo that Chew had been “apprehended too soon” .
He said: “The accused’s acts up to the point of his arrest... do not amount to embarking on the crime proper - such crime being leaving Singapore from Point B.”
In delivering his verdict on Wednesday, Judge Yeo said he was not persuaded by Mr Wee’s arguments and added: “By the time the accused embarked on the first boat, he was clearly on his way to leaving Singapore from an unauthorised place.”
Chew started serving his earlier sentence on March 1. Three other people linked to his escape bid were dealt with in court earlier this year.
Singaporean fish farm owner Tan Poh Teck, 53, who was sentenced to 27 weeks’ jail in July.
Two Malaysian men - private tour guide Tan Kim Ho, 42, and freelance driver Khoo Kea Leng, 45 - were each sentenced to six months’ jail.
Chew will be back in court on Jan 29 next year.