Already facing a jail term, former City Harvest Church (CHC) leader Chew Eng Han, 57, was hit with an additional charge in court yesterday. He is now accused of attempting to intentionally defeat the course of justice by boarding a boat to leave Singapore to avoid serving his sentence.
According to court documents, he allegedly boarded the vessel at a Pulau Ubin jetty at around 8.30am on Feb 21 - one day before he was to begin serving his jail term of three years and four months for his role in the misuse of church funds to the tune of millions of dollars. But officers from the Police Coast Guard caught him just minutes after he embarked on his alleged escape bid.
Chew was charged on Feb 22 with leaving Singapore for Malaysia from the jetty, which is not an authorised place of embarkation or point of departure. He finally started serving his sentence on March 1.
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.
But Chew, who was out on $1 million bail, had secured multiple deferments. He had originally been sentenced to six years in jail, but this was reduced to three years and four months by the High Court last April. The shortened term was upheld by the Court of Appeal on Feb 1, but Chew was allowed to defer his sentence until after Chinese New Year.
Two men accused of helping him flee Singapore have also been charged in court.
Malaysian Khoo Kea Leng, 45, who was taken to court on Feb 28, is said to have conspired with Chew on Feb 20 to leave Singapore from an unauthorised point of departure.
Khoo allegedly collected $8,000 from the former church leader near Block 75, Marine Drive, as part payment for arranging Chew's transport to Malaysia.
Singaporean fish farm owner Tan Poh Teck, 53, was earlier charged with abetting the former CHC fund manager's attempt to leave Singapore by conveying him on the boat to the north-east part of Pulau Ubin, where he was to board another vessel for Malaysia. Tan was also charged with abetting one Goh Chun Kiat to leave Singapore by conveying him on a motorised boat from a beach near Changi, which is not an authorised point of departure.
Yesterday, the court heard that Khoo intends to plead guilty to his charge, and he will be back in court on April 12.
The pre-trial conference for the cases involving Chew and Tan will take place on May 3.