The City Harvest Church (CHC) trial in Singapore continues, and the megachurch's pastor Kong Hee has appealed his 8-year jail sentence to be overturned during the process. On September 15, Attorney Edwin Tong, who represents the City Harvest Church founder and senior pastor Kong Hee, presented his appeal to the High Court. According to Attorney Edwin Tong, Kong Hee's convictions where the criminal breach of trust is concerned ought to be overturned. The reason given? The loss was not an intention of the pastor.
Apart from that, Tong further argued that Kong Hee's managed to rally support from the congregation when he used money for CHCs Crossover Project, in which Kong Hee's wife apparently lived a lavish lifestyle in the US, cutting an album with the movers and shakers in the industry.
Tong was adamant in insisting that Kong Hee, despite being convicted of misappropriating a whopping US$50 million in church funds, did not pocket a single cent of that amount. I sometimes marvel at the ludicrosity of such an argument. Assuming I had a cool US$50 million to blow, and I spent it on vehicles, holidays abroad, and a diamond encrusted iPhone 7 Plus, not to mention gifts for my family and then some, I would not have pocketed a single cent for myself, either.
The fact that CHC did not go through any kind of financial loss due to Kong Hee's actions was also mentioned, but it all adds up to the cult personality of the case. Just because one has frivolously spent an insane amount of money elsewhere with some reserves left does not mean that it is the right action. However, this particular point of the argument was not brought into dispute by the prosecution as their focus lay somewhere else.
To date, Kong Hee, along with another five CHC leaders, had been sentenced to prison for the misuse of church funds. Judge See Kee Oon has rightly pinpointed Kong as the main person behind the entire program that involves improper use of church monies in order to set up his wife, Ho Yeow Sun's music career.
It is then appropriate that in Kong Hee was the one who received the heaviest sentence among the half dozen. His crime? Guilty of conspiring to commit criminal breach of trust. The learned Judge See mentioned that Kong Hee had a major role to play when it came to channeling the many millions of dollars that was not his, but that belonged to the church, into sham bonds as opposed to the allotted investments and building expenses that the congregation were led to believe.
Tong further argued, "It is beyond question that the accused believed wholeheartedly that they were using church funds for an approved church purpose." The prosecution is set to present their case to the court on September 27, 2016. As for the remaining five, they had their cases argued on Monday morning as well. It remains to be seen what the final outcome would be, but we are sure that there is still room for more courtroom drama to unfold.
Edwin Kee is a freelance writer of The Gospel Herald.