Wednesday, May 15, 2013

City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and five other leaders misappropriated funds: prosecution

The trial against City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and and five other church leaders over alleged misappropriation of funds began on Wednesday before a packed courtroom.

Many members of the non-denominational Singapore mega-church had reportedly queued up as early as late Tuesday evening to get entry passes to the trial, which is being held at the subordinate courts.

In one set of charges, Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, Chew Eng Han, Serina Wee Gek Yin, Tan Shao Yuen Sharon and Lam Leng Hung are accused of criminal breach of trust for dishonestly misusing $24 million in church building funds to finance the music career of Kong's wife, Sun Ho.

In another set, Chew, Tan Ye Peng, Sharon Tan and Wee are said to have diverted about $26 million in church funds to cover up the "sham transactions" in the first batch of charges.

In the opening statement, lead prosecutor Mavis Chionh pointed out that the church's building funds came from donations by members to a campaign specifically targeted to support the construction of a new church.

Also, based on admitted statements of fact, the CHC management board publicly said none of the church's funds were being used to promote the career of Ho.

However, the prosecutor asserted that evidence would show that the six accused conspired to devise "purported" bond investments through which $13 million in building funds was misappropriated for Ho's career and $11 million was used for the same purpose as well as to for the personal use of one Wahju Hanafi.

The prosecution stressed that it was immaterial whether the accused believed that the promotion of Ho's music career would further the broader objectives of CHC.

"The question is whether the diversion of the Building Fund monies towards financing her music career, under the guise of purported bond investments, was an authorised use of the Building Fund," the prosecutor said.

The prosecution also pointed out that the "theological legitimacy" of using Ho's music career as a means of evangelism was not at issue in the trial and was not relevant to the charges against the accused.

Regarding the second set of charges, the prosecution alleged that the four accused over this aspect of the case conspired to effect the supposed redemption of the bonds "by misappropriating further sums totalling about $26.6 million of CHC's monies".

The prosecution said the accused intended to defraud the auditors of CHC and false entries into CHC's accounts had been made. This was said to have happened in 2009.

In conclusion, the prosecution said the evidence would show that "the offences were part of a deliberately planned, meticulously coordinated, and carefully executed scheme which stretched over a prolonged period of time and involved the movement of millions of dollars".

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