This article exists for readers to browse many news outlets around the world covering the story of Kong Hee and his not-so-merry-men convicted of their crimes today in court (21/20/2015.) This list shall grow over time.
From Channel NewsAsia,
Live updates: All 6 accused in City Harvest trial found guilty
“I am satisfied that six accused persons are guilty of all the charges against them,” said Judge See on Wednesday (Oct 21).
SINGAPORE: Six leaders of City Harvest Church have been found guilty of misappropriating S$50 million of church funds and falsifying the church’s accounts to cover up their misdeeds. Judge See Kee Oon released the verdict on Wednesday (Oct 21), and the six have been found guilty of all charges against them.
The six accused – CHC’s founder and senior pastor Kong Hee, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, former church board member and Chairman of CHC’s Investment Committee John Lam Leng Hung, former church board and CHC Investment Committee member Chew Eng Han and former finance managers Sharon Tan and Serina Wee – were present at the trial.
Refresh this page for more updates.
11.18am: City Harvest Church has released a statement on their website. In the statement, CHC co-founder Sun Ho said that they were “disappointed by the outcome”.
“Nonetheless, I know that Pastor Kong and the rest are studying the judgment intently and will take legal advice from their respective lawyers in the days to come,” she added.
10.59am: CHC senior pastor Kong Hee is seen leaving the court with his wife, Sun Ho. He was found guilty of three counts of criminal breach of trust.
10.49am: Chew Eng Han, who conducted his own defence separately, has said that he plans to appeal after sentencing. He was seen hugging his crying daughter after the verdict.
10.48am: The accused have left the courtroom, but are gathered inside the State Courts building with their supporters
10.41am: Court is adjourned.
10.40am: All lawyers have confirmed that their clients have bailors.
10.39am: The judge is extending bail for all accused, which stands at S$1 million for each, with the exception of Serina Wee and Sharon Tan. Bail stands at S$750,000 each for Wee and Tan.
All are not permitted to travel.
10.38am: The prosecution will have to file their submissions by Nov 6, and the defence by Nov 13, while oral submissions will have to be filed by Nov 20. The prosecution has asked for bail to be doubled.
10.37am: Judge See has returned.
10.33am: The lawyers have returned from the judge’s chambers.
10.13am: All the lawyers, including Chew Eng Han who is representing himself, are now in the chambers with the judge to discuss bail details and the date of sentencing.
The prosecution and defence are also set to come before the judge again at a later date, to put forward their recommendations on the appropriate punishment for the accused.
Criminal breach of trust can attract a life sentence or a jail term of up to 20 years, and a fine. The falsification of accounts carries a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine.
10.10am: Lawyers are now waiting to meet with the judge. A few CHC supporters are seen with their head bowed and praying, and none appear to be leaving.
10.08am: Sentencing will be on a later date, and the Judge said that he does not oppose that bail be extended.
10.07am: “No matter how pure the motive … these do not exonerate accused persons,” said Judge See.
10.05am: “I am satisfied that six accused persons are guilty of all the charges against them,” said Judge See in his verdict.
10.01am: The accused engaged in conspiracies to … defraud and falsify accounts,” said Judge See. “If it can be shown that they were doing was legitimate I think there may well be room for doubt, but the weight of evidence shows they were acting dishonestly.”
10am: “Documentary evidence goes a long way in demonstrating their guilty knowledge,” said the judge.
9.58am: Judge See said that he is “satisfied that … there is falsification of CHC accounts”.
9.56am: The “round-tripping of funds” was used to “create an appearance of genuine transactions”, said the judge. “Accused persons controlled these transactions every step of the way.”
9.51am: All accused knew the purpose of Firna bonds was to channel money from the building fund to the Crossover project, said Judge See.
9.49am: All of the accused gave auditors the impression that City Harvest and Xtron were independent of each other, said the judge.
9.46am: Kong, Tan Ye Peng and Wee had a substantial role in channeling the funds, said the judge, adding that John Lam had a “less substantial” role but had his own part to play.
9.45am: Xtron bonds were clearly under CHC control, and funds were channeled there for use towards the Crossover project, said the judge.
9.42am: Xtron and Firna bonds were not genuine investments, but were designed to create the appearance that Firna bonds were genuine, said the judge. “I find that … they were wrong uses of CHC funds.”
9.40am: “The main background facts are largely undisputed,” said the judge, adding that he will set out his findings for criminal breach of trust first, before focusing on the extent of accused persons’ knowledge.
9.38am: Court officials have taken their places, and Judge See Kee Oon has entered.
9.33am: About 50 members of the public, including church supporters, are present in the court room.
9.29am: All the accused have taken their seats in the dock.
9.21am: Former finance manager of CHC Serina Wee has arrived in court.
9.20am: CHC senior pastor Kong Hee and his wife, Ho Yeow Sun, have arrived.
9.19am: Former finance manager of CHC Sharon Tan has arrived in court. Mr Andre Maniam, Serina Wee’s lawyer, has arrived.
9.16am: N Sreenivasan, Tan Ye Peng’s lawyer, has arrived in court.
9.10am: Members of the public who received queue numbers earlier this morning are being allowed into the courtroom.
9.03am: Ex-board member John Lam and deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng have also arrived in court.
8.58am: Chew Eng Han, an ex-City Harvest investment committee member, has arrived at the State Courts.
7.06am: Queue numbers were given out to the first 55 in the line. Most of the rest who did not get a ticket left quickly, while a handful was seen complaining to the security guard.
6.12am: The queue has extended to about 100 people, says our reporter. Only 55 will be allowed in.
4.58am: Close to 70 people are in the queue, ahead of the expected delivery of the verdict the of the CHC trial.
Source: ByLive updates: All 6 accused in City Harvest trial found guilty, Channel NewsAsia, http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/live-updates-all-6/2206970.html, Published 21/10/2015 08:19 | Updated 21/10/2015 12:59. (Accessed 21/10/2015.)
[Watch this space]
Singapore City Harvest megachurch leaders guilty of fraud
Six leaders of a huge Singaporean church have been convicted of fraud in a case worth S$50m ($35m; £23m).
The judge ruled City Harvest Church’s pastor, Kong Hee, and others used church finances to fund the music career of his wife, Sun Ho, or falsified accounts to cover it up.
The defendants had argued Ms Ho’s pop music career was a way of reaching out to non-Christians.
They have been bailed until sentencing, but could face up to life in jail.
Sun Ho herself is not accused of wrongdoing.
Failed pop career with a high price – Tessa Wong, BBC News, Singapore
The scandal is the biggest corruption case squeaky-clean Singapore has seen in years. From racy music videos to a convoluted money trail, the case has riveted Singaporeans.
City Harvest Church was founded by Kong Hee, charismatic pastor, and his wife, pastor-turned-pop singer Sun Ho, in 1989.
Known for its slick image and wealth-focused brand of Christianity, it has grown rapidly and is now estimated to have at least 30,000 members in Singapore and others elsewhere.
The charges related to the church leadership’s attempts to boost Ms Ho’s music career worldwide, which ultimately failed. She had been touted as a demure “singing pastor” in Asia, cutting several Mandarin singles – but they only had modest success.
City Harvest – considered a megachurch – is one of Singapore’s wealthiest evangelical churches, with an estimated 30,000 members in Singapore and 15 services every weekend.
It says it has 48 affiliates in countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Taiwan, Brunei and Australia.
In a statement posted on the church’s website, Ms Ho said they were “disappointed by the outcome” and the six were taking further legal advice.
She thanked church members for their “unwavering faithfulness in loving God and loving one another” and called for “a unity that is unbreakable”.
As the six leaders appeared in court, the church tweeted messages asking for supporters’ prayers.
The defendants all maintained that they did nothing wrong.
But Judge See Kee Oon said the background facts of the case were “largely undisputed” and that the “weight of evidence shows they were acting dishonestly”.
Kong and a former church committee member John Lam were found guilty of three charges of criminal breach of trust.
Senior Pastor Tan Ye Peng, committee member Chew Eng Han and two former finance managers, Serina Wee and Sharon Tan, were each convicted of several charges of criminal breach of trust and and falsifying accounts.
Ms Ho, who was in court to support her husband, launched her music career in 2002. She has several albums in Mandarin to her name and is known in China and Taiwan.
She has also worked with US music industry figures such as songwriter Diane Warren and rapper Wyclef Jean, who produced her English album.
Source: Singapore City Harvest megachurch leaders guilty of fraud, BBC, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34589867, Published 21/10/2015. (Accessed 22/10/2015.)
Singapore church leaders convicted of fraud over pastor’s wife’s failed $50m music career
Six religious leaders in Singapore who used $50 million in church funds in a failed bid to turn the pastor’s glamorous wife into a global pop star have been convicted of fraud.
After a two-year trial that captivated Singapore with tales of lavish spending and financial deceit, pastor Kong Hee and five aides were found guilty of diverting $Sg24 million ($24 million) to finance his wife Sun Ho’s music career, which was portrayed as a religious mission.
The six were also found guilty of misappropriating another $Sg26m from City Harvest Church to cover their tracks, prosecutors said.
Ms Ho, who starred in a music video with rapper Wyclef Jean, was not charged.
The church said Ms Ho’s music could be used to attract followers.
On Wednesday, Judge See Kee Oon found the accused guilty of criminal breach of trust or falsification of accounts, or both.
The maximum penalty for criminal breach of trust, which all six were convicted of, is life imprisonment, according to the penal code.
The six were granted bail before their sentencing date, which has not yet been set.
The glamorous couple fell from grace after the leaders were charged in 2013 and the court was told how church funds were spent on music videos, marketing and a luxurious lifestyle
Prosecutors said Kong and his subordinates engaged in a practice called “round-tripping” by channelling money allotted for a church building fund into sham bonds in linked companies so they could finance Ms Ho’s music career.
They falsified church accounts to make it appear the bonds were redeemed, prosecutors said.
Source: Singapore church leaders convicted of fraud over pastor’s wife’s failed $50m music career, ABC, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-21/singapore-church-leaders-convicted-of-fraud/6874234, Updated
The Guardian reports,
Singapore pastor found guilty of using church funds for wife’s music career
Leaders of a Christian church in Singapore who misappropriated £23m of church funds in a failed attempt to turn the pastor’s wife into a global pop star to attract more followers have been convicted of fraud after a two-year trial.
The charismatic pastor Kong Hee and five aides spent some of the money on glitzy music videos featuring scantily clad dancers to support his wife Sun Ho’s singing career in Asia and try to crack the US market.
Kong and Ho founded the City Harvest church (CHC) in 1989. Ho was marketed as “the singing pastor” in Asia, and released several singles. She worked on an album with the rapper Wyclef Jean and appeared in a 2007 music video with him, but international success eluded her, the court heard.
Kong, 47, and five others were found guilty of diverting Sg$24m (£11m) to finance Ho’s career and move to Hollywood and misappropriating another Sg$26m to cover their tracks. Ho, 43, was not charged.
Dozens of church members packed into the courtroom, many having queued overnight to get a seat, and sat in stunned silence as the guilty verdict was read out.
Kong and one other church leader were convicted of criminal breach of trust. The other four, including the church accountants, were convicted of varying counts of criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts. Criminal breach of trust carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The six used a practice called “round-tripping” – channelling money allotted for a building fund and investments into sham bonds in linked companies — and falsified church accounts to make it appear as though the bonds had been redeemed.
“The accused persons chose to engage in covert operations and conspiratorial cover-ups. They contrived to create cover stories and clever round-trips concealing their unlawful conduct,” said the judge, See Kee Oon. There was “no evidence of any wrongful gain” by the accused, but See stressed that this was not an issue. All six were released on bail until sentencing, with Kong’s bail set at Sg$1m.
The pastor and his wife led the expansion of their congregation to more than 17,500 members. The CHC modelled itself on similar US churches that link wealth to Christianity, encouraging large donations and conducting slick services preaching “prosperity gospel”.
Singapore is predominantly Buddhist and Taoist, but some local Christian churches have amassed large fortunes thanks to the city-state’s affluent population.
Source: By Caroline Davies and agencies, Singapore pastor found guilty of using church funds for wife’s music career, The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/21/singapore-pastor-kong-hee-guilty-church-funds-wife-music, Published Thursday 22 October 2015 04.54 AEDT. (Accessed 24/10/2015.)
From YAHOO! NEWS Singapore,
City Harvest trial: Kong Hee, five others accused of fraud found guilty
[UPDATE 21 Oct 2015: As the case proceeded in a District Court, the maximum sentence per charge that Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon can impose is 10 years, and the maximum cumulative sentence he can impose is 20 years in total. Even on appeal, the High Court would be bound by the same limit, as the case started in a District Court.]
City Harvest Church co-founder and senior pastor Kong Hee and five other church leaders were found guilty on Wednesday of all charges of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts against them.
Judge See Kee Oon announced the verdict a packed courtroom that included many members of the megachurch, one of the largest Protestant churches in Singapore. Some had started queuing as early as 11pm the night before.
“The weight of the evidence suggests they knew that they were acting dishonestly,” said the judge. “They chose to participate in a conspiracy to misuse CHC funds.”
Kong, deputy pastor Tan Ye Peng, finance manager Sharon Tan, former finance manager Serina Wee, and former board members John Lam and Chew Eng Han were accused of misusing $24 million of church money to finance the music career of Ho Yeow Sun, Kong’s wife, in the United States. Another $26.6 million was also allegedly used to cover it up through two companies, Xtron and Firna, which are both owned by CHC supporters.
Judge See noted that some of the accused were acting on the instructions of those they considered their spiritual leaders, but that the “purity of their motives” did not exonerate them. No “permanent loss” to the church was intended, but this was predicated on their trust in Kong and their belief in the Crossover project, which aimed to spread the gospel through Ho’s singing career.
He observed a “mindset of presumptuousness, demonstrating that the accused were overconfident that the funds could be replaced before suspicions were aroused”. There was a “pervasive mindset of short term expediency” in their actions, even as they chose to “deefraud auditors with falsified accounts”.
The six accused appeared calm when the verdict was announced. Sharon Tan was later seen dabbing tears away, while Kong Hee had his head bowed. Ho, who was sitting in the public gallery, also remained calm and was seen texting away on her mobile.
When Kong and Ho were approached by reporters after the verdict was delivered, Senior Counsel Edwin Tong spoke for the couple, “Leave him be for now. He can’t talk now.”
The verdict follows a 140-day trial — one of the longest in Singapore — that came to a close last month when the prosecution and lawyers for the accused made their final submissions to the court.
To recap, these are the charges against the accused, who were found guilty on all counts:
Kong Hee – three counts of criminal breach of trust
John Lam – three counts of criminal breach of trust
Chew Eng Han – six counts of criminal breach of trust and four counts of falsification of accounts
Tan Ye Peng – six counts of criminal breach of trust and four counts of falsifying church accounts
Serina Wee – six counts of criminal breach of trust and four counts of falsification of accounts
Sharon Tan – three counts of criminal breach of trust and four counts of falsifying accounts
Criminal breach of trust is punishable with a life sentence or up to 20 years in prison, and a fine. For falsifying accounts, the punishment is a maximum of 10 years in jail, a fine, or both.
Bail was set at $1 million for Kong, Lam, Chew and Tan. Wee and Tan had their bail amounts set at $750,000. Following written submissions and mitigation pleas by the prosecution and defence next month, oral submissions will be delivered on 20 November.
Source: By Yahoo Newsroom, City Harvest trial: Kong Hee, five others accused of fraud found guilty, YAHOO! NEWS Singapore, https://sg.news.yahoo.com/city-harvest-trial–kong-hee–five-others-accused-of-fraud-found-guilty-021225556.html, Published 21/10/2015. (Accessed 24/10/2015.)