Ex-City Harvest leader charged with leaving Singapore unlawfully

Chew Eng Han, seen here earlier this month at court, was to have started his jail sentence of three years and four months yesterday for his role in the CHC case.
Chew Eng Han, seen here earlier this month at court, was to have started his jail sentence of three years and four months yesterday for his role in the CHC case.

Boatman charged with abetting attempted escape; prosecution applies for $1m bail to be forfeited

The day after he was caught allegedly trying to escape to Malaysia on a motorised boat, former City Harvest Church (CHC) leader Chew Eng Han found himself back in the dock, facing a charge of leaving Singapore unlawfully.

The former church fund manager, who was to have started his jail sentence of three years and four months yesterday for his role in the CHC saga, was arrested at 8.47am on Wednesday at sea off Pulau Ubin by the Police Coast Guard.

Boatman Tan Poh Teck, 53, was also charged yesterday with abetting Chew.

He had conveyed Chew on a motorised boat from Pulau Ubin Jetty - which is a not an authorised place of embarkation, departing point or point of departure - with the intention of taking him to Malaysia.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Zhongshan said Chew and Tan each faced a holding charge under the Immigration Act. He asked that the duo be remanded at Central Police Division for investigation.

DPP Tan also applied for Chew's bail to be revoked, and a mention for the bailor to show cause as to why the bail sum should not be forfeited. He told District Judge Christopher Goh that the prosecution had written to the Court of Appeal for a fresh date for Chew to start his sentence.

Judge Goh did not make any order on the "show cause", but ordered the duo to be remanded with permission to take them out for investigations. He turned down the application of Chew's lawyer Jonathan Phipps for his client's wife to speak to her husband.

Chew, who was wearing glasses and clad in a blue polo shirt and dark shorts, was expressionless in the dock. Tan, in a grey T-shirt and shorts, had no lawyer.

Chew's wife, his two daughters and several others attended the court mention yesterday.

Mr Phipps later told reporters that he was briefed by Mrs Chew on Wednesday evening. He said Chew's family members learnt about his arrest from the media, and were quite upset about that.

The case will be mentioned on March 1.

If convicted, Chew faces a fine of up to $2,000 and/or a jail term of up to six months.

The maximum penalty for abetting in the offence is two years in jail and a $6,000 fine.

The duo were caught in Singapore waters after they were intercepted by three Police Coast Guard vessels about 2.4km east of the jetty. Chew was found with about $5,000 in cash and fishing equipment.

Three mobile phones were also seized.

The Straits Times understands that when questioned, Chew and Tan claimed they were fishing.

But based on earlier information received, the police established that the duo were trying to leave Singapore illegally for Malaysia.

Police also arrested Chew Eng Soon, 61, on Wednesday for abetting the offence. The two Chews are believed to be brothers.

Five other CHC leaders - including founder-pastor Kong Hee - who were also convicted of mis-using church funds, began serving their sentences last April. However, Chew, who was out on $1 million bail, had secured multiple deferments.

After his jail term - which was reduced from six years by the High Court in April last year - was upheld by the Court of Appeal on Feb 1, Chew had asked to defer his sentence until after Chinese New Year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2018, with the headline 'Ex-City Harvest leader charged with leaving S'pore unlawfully'. Print Edition | Subscribe