City Harvest founder Kong Hee charged in court for alleged misuse of church funds


City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and four other senior CHC members were charged in court early Wednesday morning for alleged misuse of church funds.

They were offered bail of $500,000 each and their passports were impounded.

Kong, 47, faced three charges for committing criminal breach of trust as an agent of CHC and for allegedly misappropriating about $24 million from CHC's building funds for unauthorised use.

Each charge carries the maximum punishment of life imprisonment and a fine.

His deputy, Tan Ye Peng, 39, faced 10 charges, with three for criminal breach of trust and another seven for allegedly falsifying church accounts to cover up discrepancies in numbers.

Another church board member, John Lam Leng Hung, 44, faced three charges similar to Kong, while church finance manager Sharon Tan Shao Yuen, 37, and investment manager Chew Eng Han, in his 50s, faced seven and 10 charges respectively.

The five were said to have diverted $24 million of the church's building fund to finance the music career of Kong's wife, pop singer Ho Yeow Sun.

This was allegedly done through a series of sham transactions, which were made under the pretense of being bond investments in two companies, Xtron Productions and PT The First National Glassware.

The prosecution believes that $13 million was diverted to Xtron, with the remaining $11 million of church funds going to the other company.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong told the court that not only had they allegedly diverted $24 million through false transactions, some of them had conspired to misappropriate another $26.6 million of church funds to cover it up.

Members of City Harvest church reacted with a mix of shock and denial.

"I still believe he will come out spotless from all this -- he's a man of God and we believe in him," said teacher Alicia Goh, 29, who attends the church regularly with her husband and two young children.

"I hope that the rest of the church and their good work will not be brought down with him. He is the founder of the church, but he can also make mistakes -- if he has indeed misused our funds, he needs to own up," said retiree Steven Wong, 67, who added that he was "very disappointed" by the news.

Many of Kong's supporters also took to Twitter to ask for "prayers" for Kong and the senior church ministry members, with one user "Erictan" saying that he was "praying and fasting" for Kong's "protection".

Other tweets were more sarcastic, with one tweeter saying that Kong had been having too great a "harvest" and that his arrest was an indication that "there is a God".

The founder of one of Singapore's richest churches has been arrested on allegations he misused at least £11.5 million in donations from his congregation of more than 30,000.
The founder of one of Singapore's richest churches has been arrested on allegations he misused at least £11.5 million in donations from his congregation of more than 30,000.


More info on:

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1215576/1/.html
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1211006/1/.html

Close attention needed towards charities?
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1210296/1/.html



Some food for thought:

1) Can the association of these large sums of money be validated by religion?
- Where do we draw the line where money is concerned with religion?

2) Is there a need for a law to demand accountability for places of worship funded by public funds? How do places of worship compare to Volunteer Welfare Organisations (VWO) where public funds are involved?

Sources: The Telegraph
Yahoo News