Singapore reduces jail term for megachurch pastor convicted for fund misuse

Singapore's High Court has reduced by half the jail term of a megachurch pastor who has been convicted in the biggest case involving the misuse of charity funds in the country's history.

(REUTERS / Edgar Su)City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee (R) and his wife Sun Ho, also known as Ho Yeow Sun, at the State Courts in Singapore October 21, 2015.

On Friday, Singapore's High Court brought the jail sentence of City Harvest Church founder Pastor Kong Hee down from eight years to only three years and six months. The megachurch leader has been convicted of misusing 50 million Singaporean dollars ($35.6 million) of church funds to promote his wife's pop music career, the AFP details.

The jail sentences of five other CHC leaders involved in the case were also reduced by the court. Pastor Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun, on the other hand, was not charged in connection with the case.

The six CHC leaders were convicted in 2015 for diverting SG$24 million from the fund intended for the church building to launch Sun's pop career in the English-language market. The court also found them guilty of misusing an additional SG$26 million in a network of fake financial transactions meant to cover up their first misappropriation of church funds.

On April 8, Pastor Kong appeared before the CHC congregation and apologized for the pain he had caused because of his actions. He stood alone onstage and asked for the people's forgiveness, saying he wants to be a better leader to them, The Straits Times reports.

"I've so much to say but if I can sum it up in one sentence, pastor wants to say: I'm so sorry for all the hurt, all the disappointment and all the painful ordeals you've been through," Pastor Kong told the CHC members. "I really, really, really wish that I was and am a better, wiser, leader. Pastor is deeply sorry and sincerely asks for your forgiveness. Please forgive me."

In addition, Kong said the last seven years have been difficult for them and thanked the congregants for their prayer and support. The megachurch leader then promised that what happened will not be repeated in the future and should be a point of learning for all of them.