SINGAPORE - After a trial that spanned almost three years, the six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders were found guilty of all charges. The sentences for all the accused were passed on Friday (Nov 20), bringing the long-running City Harvest trial to a close.
1. Who is involved?
The six accused are CHC founder and senior pastor Kong Hee, 51; deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 43; former finance managers Serina Wee, 38, and Sharon Tan, 40; former church investment committee members Chew Eng Han, 55, and John Lam, 47.
2. What were their offences and sentences?
The six were convicted of varying counts of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts.
Kong was sentenced to eight years' jail. Chew received a six-year sentence; Tan Ye Peng got five-and-a-half years, and Wee got five years.
Lam and Sharon Tan received lighter sentences. Lam got three years and Tan, 21 months.
Their sentences will commence on Jan 11, 2016.
Apart from Chew, the rest have not confirmed if they would appeal.
3. What punishments did the prosecution call for?
The prosecution called for stiff sentences.
For Kong, who was identified as the key man behind the scandal, they recommended 11 to 12 years behind bars.
The prosecution also recommended a jail sentence of 11 to 12 years each for Tan Ye Peng, Wee and Chew.
For Lam, the prosecution asked for a jail sentence of eight to nine years.
The lightest sentence of five to six years was reserved for Sharon Tan.
A maximum cumulative sentence of 20 years can be imposed on the accused, in addition to a fine.
4. What did the accused do?
They misappropriated $24 million in CHC's building funds through sham bond investments in music production firm Xtron and glass maker Firna.
They then misused a further $26 million to cover up the initial crime.
These bonds were used to fund a church project called the Crossover.
5. What is the Crossover Project?
It is another name for the secular music career of Kong's wife, pop singer Ho Yeow Sun. CHC said it wanted to use her music to spread the Gospel.
6. How long has the trial gone on for?
The trial has stretched over 140 days - since it started in 2013. It is one of the longest criminal cases in history, beaten only by a drug trafficking case in the 1990s that went on for 168 days.
7. How has this impacted the church?
The beginning of a criminal investigation in 2010, was also the start of the decline of one of Singapore's biggest megachurches.
In 2009, CHC was pulling a congregation of 23,565, according to figures from its annual reports. That figure has been dwindling since, dropping to 17,522 last year - a decrease of more than 25 per cent from 2009.
Members told The Straits Times they left because of inconsistencies between what their leaders told them in church, and what they revealed in court.