City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and four other convicted figures finally start their jail sentences today

Photo: Mohd Fyrol / AFP

Years after the City Harvest Church leaders were first dragged to court for misappropriation of church funds, the convicts will finally serve time in jail.

Church founder Kong Hee was said to have arrived at 8:30am to surrender himself at the State Courts — he’s the first of the five to start their jail term today. CHC finance manager Sharon Tan and former finance committee member John Lam arrived soon after, while ex-deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and former finance manager Serina Wee arrived later after 9am, TODAY reports.

The sixth convicted CHC figure — former fund manager Chew Eng Han — will only start his sentence Wednesday. He had mentioned that he needed time and resources to prepare to file a Criminal Reference to clarify the law which he was convicted for.

The six are involved in Singapore’s biggest-ever case of embezzled charity funds – one that saw nearly $50 million sunk into efforts to launch the secular music career of the megachurch founder’s wife. Two weeks ago, their prison sentences had been dramatically reduced following an appeal of their conviction.

  • Church founder and senior pastor Kong Hee: From eight years to three years and six months in jail
  • Former fund manager Chew Eng Han: From six years to three years and four months in jail
  • Deputy pastor Tan Ye Peng: From five and a half years to three years and two months in jail
  • Former finance manager Serina Wee: From five years to two years and six months in jail
  • Former finance committee member John Lam: From three years to one year and six months in jail
  • Former finance manager Sharon Tan: From 21 months to seven months in jail

The drastic cuts to their prison sentences did not sit well with both prosecutors and the public. The Attorney-General’s Chambers took the case to the Court of Appeal, where they will question the High Court’s decision on their sentences.

With the filing of Criminal Reference, the prosecution intends to request the Court of Appeal to reinstate the six’s original convictions and sentences. No further details have been provided by the Attorney-General’s Chambers for now.

Despite the reduced sentences, both Kong and his church expressed disappointment that their conviction was not overturned.

“I have, in these past weeks since the release of the judgment, reflected deeply,” said Kong in a media statement on Wednesday.

“I have come to terms with what is ahead and am at peace.”

In the time between the conviction and finally serving time in jail, Kong had plenty of time as a free man getting police escorts in Jakarta and eating peanut butter straight out from a jar, among other antics.

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