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Kong Hee and City Harvest Church leaders found guilty: What next?

Lawyer Edwin Tong (centre, with tie) , Kong Hee (centre, behind Tong) and his wife Ho Yeow Sun (behind Kong Hee), leaving the State Courts.

SINGAPORE - Six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders, including founder Kong Hee, were convicted on Wednesday (Oct 21) of all charges levelled at them.

The court found the accused guilty of funnelling $24 million in church building funds into bogus bond investments to bankroll the music ambitions of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun. Later, they used a further $26 million to cover their tracks.

The six were convicted of varying counts of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts.

Here are six things about the trial which lasted 140 days:

1. What next after the verdict?

The prosecution is scheduled to file written submissions by Nov 6. The defence will be given a week to respond with mitigation pleas on Nov 13.

Oral submissions will be delivered on Nov 20 at 9.30am.

Sentencing may take place on Nov 20 or at a later date.

2. What is the next course of action for the church leaders?

In a statement put up on the church website, Ms Ho, who is CHC co-founder, said Kong and the others were "studying the judgment intently" and would be taking legal advice from their respective lawyers.

Former church fund manager Chew Eng Han, who conducted his own defence, said he intends to file an appeal.

Mr John Lam, former CHC finance committee member, said he is considering an appeal, while former church finance manager Sharon Tan said she would speak to her lawyer first.

Kong and deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng indicated through their lawyers that they would wait for the grounds of decision before making their next move.

Former CHC finance manager Serina Wee has not decided if she would appeal the verdict.

3. What is the bail amount?

Judge See extended bail of $1 million to Kong, Tan Ye Peng, Chew and Lam.

Bail was set at $750,000 for Sharon Tan and Wee, who had her bail amount raised from $500,000 previously.

They have been barred from travelling overseas. All six posted bail.

4. What is the punishment for the offence?

Kong and Lam were found guilty of three charges of criminal breach of trust.

Tan Ye Peng, Chew and Wee were convicted of six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsifying accounts.

Sharon Tan was found guilty of three charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsifying accounts.

The falsification of accounts charge carries a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine.

For each count of criminal breach of trust, the accused could face up to 10 years' jail and a fine.

The punishment for criminal breach of trust by a public servant, banker, merchant or agent set out under Section 409 of the Penal Code - the section under which the six have been convicted - is a life sentence or up to 20 years' jail.

However, the maximum punishment a District Court judge can impose is 10 years per charge, or a maximum cumulative sentence of up to 20 years.

5. What next for the church?

In Ms Ho's official statement following the verdict, she said a new management and church board - which she dubbed "CHC 2.0" - has been overseeing operations since 2012.

In a Facebook post on Oct 19, Kong also revealed that his wife had been ordained as a pastor and urged church members to support her and the new generation leadership team.

6. Is this the longest criminal case in Singapore's history?

While the CHC trial, which started in May 2013, went on for 140 days, it is not the longest.

The record was set by a drug trafficking case in the 1990s which lasted 168 days.

This article first appeared on The Straits Times website on Oct 21, 2015.