Singapore's presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon condemned the 'culture of secrecy' that prevailed over the City Harvest Church and how this was the means by which funds were illegally funneled from the church into the Crossover Project.
The 270-page written judgment was released on Thursday and had the strongest criticism leveled at church founder Kong Hee, Channel News Asia reports.
In an eloquently-worded judgment, See wrote that, "The allure of power that can be exercised in secrecy is difficult to resist. 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."
The ring of Gyges was referred to by the Greek philosopher Plato as a ring that gave one the power to be invisible, much like the ring of power in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
This "cloak of invisibility" was created when ex church member Roland Poon publicly stated that church funds where diverted into Ho Yeow Sun's music career. The pastor then persuaded the church that they were "being maligned and under attack, and hence had to be discreet," the judge wrote.
Church money was used to set up Xtron Productions, which would manage Ho's music career. From here, funds were diverted into the Crossover Project.
The judge further mentioned that Kong needed the cooperation of the five other individuals who were charged and convicted with the crime, and that no one person was fully aware of all the details at any given time. The Crossover grew more ambitious in time and made it hard for those involved to back out from previous actions.
Thus under cloak of secrecy, the misappropriation of the City Harvest Church's S$50 million and the falsifying of the church's accounts were successfully accomplished. The Judge wrote: "The real tragedy is when men are afraid of the light, and if they choose not to come into the light ...for fear that their deeds will be exposed, as they surely will in time."
Meanwhile, the Straits Times reports that about 25 per cent of the members have since abandoned the church when news of the scandal exploded in 2010. In 2009, CHC had around 23,565 members (according to its annual reports) but that had diminished to 17,522 in 2014.
Ex member Melvin Lee left in 2013 after he had tired of the church leadership's lies: "Kong had told us that no church funds were used in the project, but it seems like church funds were in fact used. "That's when I decided to leave."