City Harvest Church Pastor Kong Hee may serve between 11 to 12 years in prison after being found guilty of funneling more than $35.5 million in church monies for his popstar wife's career, the prosecution in the case has said.
As reported by the Gospel Herald, Kong, 51, and five other CHC leaders were found guilty back in October of using management company Xtron as a conduit to financially support the singing career of his wife, Sun Ho, and her planned U.S. album release.
According to a report from the Straits Times, the public prosecutor has asked that Kong, along with deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 43; former CHC finance manager Serina Wee, 38; and former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han, 55, serve between 11 to 12 years in prison for their roles in the crime.
The prosecution also recommended that former CHC finance manager John Lam, 47, receive eight to nine years, and former CHC finance manager Sharon Tan serve five to six years.
All six CHC members are set for oral submissions on sentencing on Friday, and a maximum cumulative sentence of 20 years can be imposed on the accused, in addition to a fine.
Speaking to the Straits Times, Kong's lawyer, Mr Jason Chan, said it was likely for Kong to appeal. "I am standing by my defense and what I testified during the trial, and will make an appeal," he said. "But I can't confirm right now; realistically, we have to see what happens on Friday."
In his written judgement, Presiding Judge See Kee Oon identified Kong as the ringleader in the scandal, stating the pastor "acted consciously and dishonestly".
"Kong Hee maintains that he is a pastor and not an expert in legality," the judge wrote. "But one does not need to be an expert in legality to appreciate certain fundamental aspects of honesty, truth and integrity," the judge wrote.
"When shrouded under a cloak of invisibility, much like the mythical ring of Gyges, persons in such positions of power have no fear of accountability and tend to become their own worst enemies," he added.
Meanwhile, Kong, who has maintained his innocence throughout the trial, has said that despite weathering an incredibly difficult season, his church has experienced an "amazing" time of spiritual breakthroughs.
In a Facebook update shared earlier in November, the pastor wrote, "It has been a very trying season for everyone of us at City Harvest Church (Official), but what an amazing weekend of breakthroughs we've just had ... We laughed, we got touched by God's Presence, hearts were set free from fear, and most importantly, so many gave their hearts to Jesus Christ at the end of each service!"
He added, "Truly, how awesome is this place ... This is the House of God, the gate of heaven, the place of miracles! CHC, thank you for being strong ... the joy of the LORD is our strength!"
Speaking on the Sunday after the trial, Kong told congregants he was "saddened" by the outcome, but confident that the church's future was secure, "because of you and the new leadership that has been put in place."
"Out of the ashes, we will rise," he said. "I've absolute confidence regardless of what happens to me ... I've been telling you this for the last three months ... This church is going to be a powerful, powerful church."