SINGAPORE: In the final legal chapter of the City Harvest Church saga, a five-judge Court of Appeal dismissed a bid by prosecutors to reinstate the original convictions for church founder Kong Hee and five others convicted of misusing millions in church funds, which would have meant longer jail terms for them.
Yesterday’s decision meant that Kong, 53; deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 45; former finance manager Serina Wee, 41; and former finance committee member John Lam, 50, will continue serving out their existing and reduced jail terms of between one-and-a-half and three-and-a-half years, which began in April last year.
Former finance manager Sharon Tan, 42, has completed her seven-month jail term.
Former fund manager Chew Eng Han, 57, facing a jail term of three years and four months, has been out on bail pending the court’s decision.
He was allowed his request to start serving his sentence on Feb 22, after the Chinese New Year holiday.
The decision, which hinged on the interpretation of provisions in the Penal Code governing criminal breach of trust offences, has wider implications for future misappropriation cases.
Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang said that if there is any gap in the law, the shaping of the remedy should be left to parliament.
“A hard case should not be allowed to make bad law,” he said, noting that the accused are still serving substantial jail terms.
In a statement yesterday, the Attorney-General’s Chambers said that it would work with relevant government ministries “on the appropriate revisions to the Penal Code, to ensure that company directors and other persons in similar positions of trust and responsibility are subject to appropriate punishments if they commit criminal breach of trust (CBT)”.
The prosecution had raised the point of law to the apex court in August last year, in a rarely invoked procedure known as a criminal reference.
The prosecution argued that the City Harvest six ought to have been convicted of the more aggravated charge of CBT as agents, which provides for heavier punishment, rather than plain CBT. — The Straits Times/Asia News Network