SINGAPORE - Former City Harvest Church leader Chew Eng Han was charged with trying to leave Singapore unlawfully on Tuesday morning (Feb 22), a day after his escape attempt by boat was foiled.
The ex-church fund manager was nabbed at sea on Wednesday morning while trying to leave Singapore illegally by boat.
Chew, 57, was due to begin his jail term of three years and four months on Thursday for his role in the City Harvest Church saga, the largest case of misuse of charitable funds in Singapore's history.
But he was arrested along with another man, Tan Poh Teck, at 8.47am on board a motorised sampan, said police. Tan, 53, was piloting the sampan that had picked Chew up from the main jetty on Pulau Ubin, north-east of mainland Singapore.
The duo were caught in Singapore waters after they were intercepted by three Police Coast Guard vessels about 2.4km eastwards of the jetty. Chew was found with about $5,000 in cash and fishing equipment.
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. They were arrested for "attempting to leave Singapore unlawfully at unauthorised point of departure" under the Immigration Act.
Those found guilty of this offence can face a jail term of up to six months and a $2,000 fine.
Police also arrested Chew Eng Soon, 61, on Wednesday for abetting the offence. Both Chews are believed to be brothers. The trio were held in lock-up at the Police Cantonment Complex.
Five other City Harvest Church leaders - including founder-pastor Kong Hee - who were also convicted of misusing church funds, began serving their sentences last April. But 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 asked to defer his sentence until after Chinese New Year.