Singapore objects to showbiz pastor's reduced sentence in fraud case

Singapore's High Court has slashed by half the jail sentence of a megachurch pastor convicted of misusing millions in church funds, sparking outcry from the public and prosecutors who are now calling for a review of the decision.

(REUTERS / Edgar Su)A combination photo shows City Harvest Church's members (top L-R to bottom L-R), former finance manager Serina Wee, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, former finance manager Sharon Tan, founder Kong Hee, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and former treasurer John Lam arriving at the State Courts in Singapore October 21, 2015, where a verdict is expected to be delivered for their trial of misappropriating S million (.5 million) of church funds and falsifying the church's accounts.

City Harvest Church founder and pastor Kong Hee, who was found guilty of misusing 50 million Singaporean dollars (roughly $35.8 million) in church funds to launch his wife's pop music career, was initially given an eight-year jail sentence. On Friday, the High Court reduced the sentence to three and a half years, prompting prosecutors to ask for the reinstatement of the original convictions, the AFP details.

"The prosecution intends to request that the Court of Appeal exercises its powers ... to reinstate the appellants' original convictions," the city's Attorney-General's Chambers said in the wake of the latest court decision.

Kong's sentence was not the only one slashed because of a technicality. The five other church leaders involved in the case also received reduced sentences on Friday, igniting public outcry.

Facebook user Zhengquen Qin questioned the "major discounts" in the jail sentences of the "white-collar criminals." Singapore's Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, on the other hand, told the media that the move could affect other corruption cases.

Meanwhile, Pastor Kong stood alone onstage in front of his congregation on April 8 and apologized for the pain that he caused them because of his actions. He asked their forgiveness and thanked them for all their prayers through the whole ordeal, The Straits Times reports.

In addition, Pastor Kong shared that he failed to slow down and pray during the church's tremendous growth. In the process, he made decisions that were unwise but also revealed that the experience has taught him a lot of lessons.

The embattled pastor also expressed confidence in the new leader appointed over CHC. Pastor Kong described the case as a difficult point of learning and vowed that the things that happened in the past will not be repeated.