Month: August 2012

Singapore’s City Harvest Church warned over fundraising for accused officials

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s government and police have warned the city’s mega-church City Harvest Church from attempting to raise funds from worshipers in order to fund legal cases against their top officials.

Singapore’s Commissioner of Charities (COC) said it has issued a warning to City Harvest Church over its employees’ efforts to raise funds to pay the legal fees of the church’s leaders facing criminal charges for corruption and embezzlement.

“The Commissioner of Charities (COC) office had earlier issued a Restriction Order to the Board of City Harvest Church (CHC) to restrict CHC from paying the legal fees of the six accused persons and entering into transactions relating to payment of services to the suspended individuals and their related entities, without the approval of the COC,” it said in a statement.

Christians in the city are angry over the reports that the church is trying to get average citizens to help fund their legal campaign.

“They are charged with misusing their own worshipers money and now they are asking for them to give more, which they probably wasted on personal projects? It is ridiculous and wrong on a number of levels,” said David Wong, a Christian man in Singapore, who told that he had attended a few services at CHC in the past.

“But is was a big show and I didn’t really like it,” he added. “And now this scandal. It doesn’t make sense for people to give them money.”

Pastor Kong is facing a number of charges including embezzlement and using church funds for personal use. The controversy has left many in the city questioning the role of faith and business.

The pastor is one of six members of the church to face charges in what is believed to be the largest financial scandal to hit Singapore’s charity sector to date.

He was arrested in June and accused of “dishonestly misappropriating monies” from the church’s building fund to promote and support the pop music career of his wife, Sun Ho, who is in her early 40s. has followed the controversy closely over the weeks, highlighting the inside workings of the mega-church. The issue has struck home for many Christians in the country who feel the situation in Singapore for them is being tarnished by the actions of a few individuals.

The founder of Singapore’s embattled City Harvest Church Kong issued a statement late on Wednesday detailing the charges against him as well as maintaining that he did not participate in any wrongdoing and again maintained his “integrity.”

“The Prosecution has brought three charges against me, which I have carefully considered with my lawyers,” he began in a statement to the media.

“I do maintain my integrity, and will rigorously defend that integrity against these charges,” Kong continued.

He is charged with misusing church funds and corruption charges as the head of the Singapore mega-church. If convicted, he could face a lengthy jail sentence.

“I have and will continue to place my faith and trust in our judicial system. I will explain the facts and circumstances to the Court, and am confident that I will be vindicated.

“Sun and I would like to take this opportunity to thank God for all the people who have blessed us with their love, kindness and prayers during this challenging period of time. We have been tremendously humbled by the support and encouragement from the public, family and friends. We especially thank all those from City Harvest Church and the Christian community at large. They have been a constant source of strength.

“I respect the Court proceedings which are underway, and will not make any comment about the charges until the appropriate time and forum.”

The case was adjourned until August 30.

In late June, as the church was charged with misusing some $50 million of church money, they appointed New Zealand’s Reverend Phil Pringle and Reverend A.R. Bernard to function as advisory pastors in order to maintain services for worshipers without break.

Pringle is the founder and senior minister of Christian City Church in Sydney, Australia.

But now that he is in Singapore, working for a church embattled with corruption charges, he has become targeted by the Christian watchdog organization C3 Church Watch, which tasks itself with overseeing good practices at Christian organizations globally.

The group’s blog said that it was “designed to watch and monitor C3 Church and its pastors, specifically Phil Pringle.”

It has raised questions about the New Zealand-born pastor’s religious credentials and teachings.

It is the latest in a weeklong battle over embezzlement charges and fears that the situation could potentially see the end of City Harvest, which hosted some 14,000 over the weekend in services.

The church allegedly diverted some S$23 million (RM57 million) of the church’s money to fund Ho Yeow Sun’s music career in the United States. Ho is Kong Hee’s wife.

CNA said they were charged for another S$26.6 million (RM66 million) of misappropriated funds, used to redeem “sham bonds” to cover their tracks.




CHC members privately raising funds for Pastor Kong Hee’s legal fees?

Yahoo! Newsroom – Sat, Aug 4, 2012’s-legal-fees-.html

Several members of City Harvest Church are believed to be privately raising funds to help pay for beleaguered co-founder Pastor Kong Hee’s legal fees as well as that of five other leaders.

The unofficial fundraising effort came to light during CHC’s AGM last Sunday, when an executive member named Dawn Lee spoke up about her intention to mobilise individuals who wanted to offer Kong and the five financial support, reported The Straits Times.

Ms Lee claimed to know other members who had privately come together to raise money, and her speech was met with cheers from the 560 executive members present.

She then suggested that interested members meet her after the meeting before distributing her contact details.

Ms Lee’s announcement came after executive pastor Aries Zulkarnain rejected four proposals from other members suggesting the use of church funds to bankroll the six charged leaders’ legal fees.

Thanking the members for their ideas, Zulkarnain emphasized that the church was not allowed to assist Kong and the five with their legal fees. He also added that CHC could not endorse any mass demonstration by members.

According to The Straits Times, one of the four motions suggested by executive members included the setting up a donation fund for Kong Hee and the other leaders.

Last month, several youth church leaders also came together to record a music video to show support of Kong Hee and City Harvest.

Kong, his right hand man Tan Ye Peng, finance manger Sharon Tan, church investment manager Chew Eng Han, former church finance manager Serina Wee, and board management member John Lam Leng Hung have been charged with conspiring to misappropriate millions of dollars from the church’s funds.

They have been charged with putting S$24 million into sham investments to help fund the music career of Pastor Kong Hee’s wife, Sun Ho. Another S$26 million worth of church funds were then allegedly misappropriated to balance the church’s account books.

With the exception of Kong, all the other five are represented by senior counsels – considered the best, and also the most expensive of lawyers.

A lawyer Yahoo! Singapore spoke to said that those who employed senior counsels would be looking at legal bills of at least $1.5 million — or more – in the case of a lengthy trial, which looks to be the case.

“In any event, I would imagine that they would hire senior counsels only if they could actually afford it – this news that church members want to give them financial support would be damaging and not beneficial to their images, there will definitely be more accusations that they are extravagant and ripping their followers off,” said a criminal lawyer who declined to be named

He added that his advice, if they were his clients, would be to distance themselves from any kind of cash offering or support.

Church members interviewed by Yahoo! said the motions were triggered by the congregation’s concerns that the families of the six would be financially impacted by their loss of income.

“Many of us feel that, on top of the emotional troubles they are facing, they should not also have to worry or struggle about the legal fees. To us, our leaders are also family, and if it is a personal decision to help them out, I don’t think it’s against the law,” said teacher Alicia Goh, 29.

She added that she would be interested to hear more about Ms Lee’s mobilization of financial donations and that she trusts that the money will be “put to good use”.

“I hope that the public can just see this as friends supporting another friend in need. Just as Pastor Kong has given us spiritual and financial help without condition, we are doing the same. It’s a private affair, so please don’t judge us,” said marketing executive Donald Ho, 37.

If found guilty, Kong Hee could face a maximum of life imprisonment and fine.

Last week, lawyers for all six charged said their clients would likely not be pleading guilty — which means they are likely to claim trial.

The six will be in court on Aug 30 when their case is mentioned again.

Kong Hee allowed to travel overseas, bail doubled

By Jeanette Tan   .Posts Website  .By Jeanette Tan | Yahoo! Newsroom – Wed, Jul 25, 2012

UPDATED, 31 July 2012

The court has approved City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee’s application to travel overseas.

Kong, 47, turned up at the Subordinate Courts on Monday afternoon to ask for permission to leave the country.

Yahoo! Singapore understands that Kong will be travelling “in the region for pastoral purposes”.

His bail has since been raised to S$1 million, up from S$500,000.