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What you need to know about the City Harvest trial

Tuesday, October 27, 2015 - 11:04
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The accused (clockwise from top left): Serina Wee, Chew Eng Han, Sharon Tan, John Lam, Tan Ye Peng and Kong Hee.

SINGAPORE - After more than two-years, the long-running City Harvest trial has finally come to a close. Lawyers on both sides wrapped up their final submissions on Tuesday.

Here's what you need to know about the trial:

1. Who's involved?

The six co-accused are or were City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders - they are senior pastor Kong Hee, 51; deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 42; former finance managers Serina Wee, 38, and Sharon Tan, 39; former church investment committee members Chew Eng Han,55, and John Lam, 47.

2. What happened?

The six are accused of misappropriating $24 million in CHC's building funds through sham bond investments in music production firm Xtron and glass maker Firna. They also allegedly misused a further $26 million to cover up the initial misuse.

The bonds were used to fund a church project called the Crossover.

3. What are the charges?

The six face varying counts of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts. The first offence is punishable with a life sentence, or up to 20 years in prison and a fine. The second carries a maximum of 10 years in jail, a fine or both.

4. What is the Crossover Project?

It is another name for the secular music career of Kong's wife, pop singer Ho Yeow Sun. CHC said it wanted to use her music to spread the Gospel.

5. How did the bonds come about?

The bonds started as a means for the church to fund the Crossover discreetly. This was a strategy devised by Kong, Chew has told the Court.

This was a response to concerns about the misuse of church funds raised by former churchgoer Roland Poon in 2003. Mr Poon had accused the church of using members' donations to fund Ms Ho's music career. The first bond subscription agreement was signed in 2007.

6. How long has it gone on for?

The trial has stretched over 140 days - since it started in 2013. It is one of the longest criminal cases in history, beaten only by a drug trafficking case in the 1990s that went on for 168 days.

7. Who attends?

Court hearings are attended mostly by church members, although interest has waned since the trial started. When it first started, church members would queue up before dawn outside the courthouse to get a seat in the courtroom.

8. What's next?

Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon will deliver his verdict on Oct 21 - following which either side would be able to appeal.

This article first appeared on The Straits Times website on Sept 16, 2015.

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