Facebook user Demond Loo has written an open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong implying that opposition members are responsible for the public outcry against the lighter sentence imposed on leaders of the City Harvest Church. He suggested that the Government should listen to the “real people” and let the sentence be without appealing it.
“A small group of noisy netizens attempted to chart the 2011/2015 elections. They blamed the government for everything from CPF monies to high cost of living. To that we lost an esteemed and highly talented individual, the former Minister George Yeo. What have we learnt from GE2011/2015? Focus on the real issues, listen to real people. Then the country moves forward.” – Desmond Loo
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam had commented a few days ago that Shanmugam shared that the government agreed with the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) that the original sentences imposed on the 6 accused were too low.
“Now if you look at the background, AGC believed that the original sentence, say for example, 8 years for Pastor Kong Hee and the sentences for the others was too low, which is why they appealed. And they told us they were appealing, they told the government. and they gave their reasons to us, and the government believed that the original sentences….were too low as well. The High Court has disagreed (the High Court in this case sitting with three judges) but if you look at it in terms of judges including the lower court judge, two judges thought either the sentences should be as they are, or higher. Two judges felt that it should be lower, and a key reason for the majority judgement was to consider directors to be not agents. So they took the existing important charge and replaced it with a lower charge. and that resulted in a lower sentence.” – Mr Shanmugam
City Harvest Church founder, Kong Hee, and five of his church members’ sentences were reduced by the High Court. The court meted out the following sentences after a five-day appeal hearing in September 2016:
Kong Hee – 8 years to 3.5 years
Serina Wee – 5 years to 2.5 years
Tan Ye Peng – 5.5 years to 3 years and 2 months
Chew Eng Han – 6 years to 3 years and 4 months
John Lam – 3 years to 1.5 years
Sharon Tan – 21 months to 7 months.
The sensational case – which is Singapore’s largest charity scandal – involves misappropriating $50 million of church funds. After a lengthy trial in 2015, the High Court found the six leaders guilty of using $24 million belonging to the Church to fund the music career of Sun Ho. To cover up their tracks, they used another $26 million.
The High Court judge ruled that they were “effectively putting CHC’s funds into their own hands to use as needed” despite being “not authorised”. The High Court however decided to reduce their charge from one of aggravated form of criminal breach of trust (CBT) to a “simple” form of CBT.
2 out 3 judges thought the prosecution had not satisfied the requirements to prove the aggravated form of CBT, which the law states the person must be a public servant, or a banker, a merchant, a factor, a broker, an attorney or an agent, when committing the crime.