City Harvest Church leaders back in court to clarify conviction ruling

Six of City Harvest Church's former leaders returned to court in the morning of Aug. 1 for a criminal reference hearing in which prosecutors sought to clarify the law under which they were convicted in April.

(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.

CHC founder Pastor Kong Hee and the five other former leaders of the Singaporean megachurch were present that morning and in their prison garb. The panel of judges in the criminal reference hearing included Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash, and Justices Quentin Loh, Chua Lee Ming, and Belinda Ang, Today Online detailed.

The six former CHC leaders were convicted of misusing 50 million Singaporean dollars of church funds in 2015. After an appeal in April, their jail terms for criminal breach of trust were significantly reduced. While they were initially handed prison sentences ranging from 21 months to eight years, the new sentences were from seven months to three years and six months.

After the conviction, Pastor Kong faced his congregation and apologized for the "unwise decisions" he made in the past. He expressed sadness over the prospect of leaving his family and the church, but said he was looking forward to seeing them again after he finished his sentence, The Straits Times relayed.

In addition, Pastor Kong explained that he made decisions "in the church's best interest." Still, he took responsibility for the way the church fund was used for their mission to evangelize.

Prosecutors filed a criminal reference to clarify whether a director or a leader of an organization entrusted with property is considered "an agent" under the Penal Code's Section 409. Five of the convicted megachurch leaders have already started serving their prison sentences on April 21, but former fund manager Chew Eng Han's sentence has been deferred until a criminal reference ruling is made.

Earlier this month, Chew applied for a criminal reference in a bid to challenge his conviction for criminal breach of trust. However, the Court of Appeal rejected his application over his failure to convince them that there were questions of law of public interest in the case.