Forget about watching those sappy Taiwanese or Korean idol dramas because nothing can be more dramatic than Singapore’s media having an open season on City Harvest Church (CHC) as the Accused Six and the prosecution duke it out in the courtroom in heated battles of wits, exchange of allegations, grasping at straws, and verbal burns delivered by His Honor, the almighty judge.
The six were Kong Hee (church founder and senior pastor), Chew Eng Han (fund manager), Sharon Tan (finance manager), Serina Wee (finance manager), John Lam (management’s secretary), and Tan Ye Peng (founding member and senior pastor).
Allow me to present a timeline of what has transpired thus far:
Previously on the CHC saga: Involving an epic 144-day trial, six CHC leaders were found guilty of using S$24 million of church funds to finance the music career of Sun Ho, wife of Kong Hee. The leaders then misused another S$26 million to cover up the first amount. The five insisted that they were merely following Kong’s instructions. The prosecution argued that they actively “took their own initiative to deceive and mislead the members of CHC”. Judge See judged their actions as unlawful as they were “effectively putting CHC’s funds into their own hands to use as they needed”.
14 Sept: The six CHC leaders, who were found guilty of misappropriating S$50 million in church funds, are seeking to have their convictions overturned by the High Court.
15 Sept: Kong’s lawyer, Edwin Tong, called for his client’s convictions for criminal breach of trust to be overturned because Kong:
1) never intended to cause wrongful loss to the church and did not pocket a cent of the S$50 million
2) had used the money on the church’s mission that was wholly supported by the entire congregation
3) believed the millions used to help Ho’s singing career, which is closely linked with the Crossover Project – church’s mission to reach out to non-Christians via pop music – is in CHC’s best interest.
16 Sept: Chew, who was self-represented, argued that the prosecution was misguided to equate his wrongful use of church funds to finance a project that benefitted the church as dishonest misappropriation. The prosecution depicted Chew as “clever scheming fund manager hiding illegal activities”. However, he said he and his family had donated S$1 million to CHC and he had “suffered” because he was brainwashed and his blind faith.
19 Sept: Serina’s lawyer, Mr Manian, downplayed her role in Crossover Project, whereby she was only an administrator, played a limited role, not entrusted with any of the misappropriated funds, not a signatory to payments made out of CHC’s funds, having no intention to defraud, and merely acting in the church’s interest. Manian defended against an email where Serina estimated Ho’s sales to be at $200,000. He shifted the blame and said sales estimates were provided by Kong Hee and Tan Ye Peng.
19 Sept: Sreenivasan, Tan Ye Peng’s lawyer, said the trial judge was erroneous in his judgment as the intention to defraud by making false entries is absent in his client’s falsification offence. He said Tan believed spending the church building fund on Crossover was legal as it was legitimate and supported by the congregation.
20 Sept: Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Christopher Ong accused the six for weaving a web of lies to deceive the church’s internal governance bodies, congregation, auditors, and lawyers. He said they knew the bonds were not investments but “excuses to spend building money on Sun Ho’s music career”. Regarding the need for Crossover’s secrecy, DPP Ong said it was strange that Sun Ho’s funding by the building fund was “buried so deep that even the auditors don’t know about it” and it is public knowledge that Ms Ho was the “famous pastor Kong Hee’s wife” and that Kong would come out to preach at the end of her concerts.
20 Sept: Prosecutors said Kong controlled Xtron and the money passing through it though he denied and insisted he served only as a liaison. DPP Ong said evidence showed Kong was in full control of the money, “can’t seem to decide how much control (he had)”, routinely changed his evidence surrounding this point to his convenience, and “has no credibility whatsoever”.
Prosecutors refused to accept the “brainwashed defense”. “They are clearly intelligent people … it’s too simplistic to view this as them submitting to Kong’s vision. This is not a case of these people being just everyday church members and Kong being the pastor right at the top. These are all leaders”, DPP Ong argued. Persecutors told the court that the deceptive and manipulative actions of the six allowed the conspiracy to continue “in a climate of unquestioning acceptance”.
21 Sept: The prosecution called for jail terms of the six to be increased significantly, whereby Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, Chew, and Wee to be jailed between 11 and 12 years, Lam between 8 and 9 years, and Sharon Tan between 5 and 6 years. DPP Ong said they had not shown any remorse for their actions. “The offenders were placed in positions of trust by virtue of their positions in CHC. The offenders abused this trust in committing the offences and lying to cover them up,” he said.
22 Sept: DPP Ong said the six decided what is the church’s interest and silenced dissenting viewpoints. “What this calls into question is whether they can really say they were pursuing CHC’s objectives or they were really pursuing a mandate that they had created and then foisted upon CHC,” said DPP Ong. The lack of remorse by the six showed “this is not a case of altruistic individuals who nobly set out to fulfill the goals of CHC”. Despite the trial’s record was “voluminous”, Judge Chao promised to give a judgment as soon as possible.
22 Sept: According to Justice Chan, CHC’s method of spreading the gospel was “very extravagant”. The judge suggested that Sun Ho singing or arranging K-Pop concerts would be cheaper evangelization alternatives. In response to the court’s questions, DPP Ong said the six supported the means of executing Crossover but didn’t know how much the means cost and who was paying, as well as taking the wrong route or means to carrying out the church’s mission.
Frankly, do they or not deserve a heavier sentence?
Featured image: www.channelnewsasia.com
This article was first published on goodyfeed.com
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