By Bryna Singh
The Straits Times
Friday, Apr 26, 2013

SINGAPORE – Senior District Judge See Kee Oon, who will be presiding over the trial of the six City Harvest Church leaders accused of embezzling more than $50 million, met their defence lawyers on Tuesday.

This was the first meeting between him and the defence team after several pre-trial conferences, which were heard by other judges. The highly anticipated trial is set to begin on May 15.

The six leaders are alleged to have funnelled $24 million of church money into sham bond investments to further the career of Ms Ho Yeow Sun, founding pastor Kong Hee’s pop singer wife. They are also said to have misappropriated another $26.6 million to cover up the first sum.

At the last pre-trial conference earlier this month, the six accused made a request to push back the start of their trial, which was denied.

This request was not re-visited on Tuesday. Instead, the parties busied themselves with sorting out administrative and logistic matters.

Several of the six leaders have at least two lawyers with them, so seating arrangements in court also needed to be worked out in the light of space constraints.

All are represented by senior counsel except Kong, who has engaged lawyer Edwin Tong.

Of the six leaders, only Chew Eng Han was in court on Tuesday. He wanted to apply for permission to go overseas for a few weeks for a business trip.

The 52-year-old, who is the church’s former investment manager, said he would be back in time for the trial.

During church services earlier this month, Kong rallied his congregation, telling them that by next year, “everything should be all over”.