5 City Harvest Church leaders surrender, begin jail terms
SINGAPORE — Two weeks after the verdict of their appeal was passed, five out of six City Harvest Church leaders surrendered themselves at the State Courts on Friday morning (April 21) to start their jail term.
Kong Hee, the church's founder, was the first to arrive at about 8.30am. A group of over 30 supporters waited outside the court room to greet and hug him.
"I'm totally at peace, and grateful to God. I've nothing more to say," Kong, 52, said in brief remarks to the media.
Former CHC finance manager Sharon Tan, 41, was the next to arrive at the courts, followed by ex-finance committee member John Lam, 49.
Former deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 44, and former finance manager Serina Wee, 40, were late and turned up past 9am, the time they were supposed to be at the courts.
Former fund manager Chew Eng Han - the sixth individual involved in the case - was granted a stay of sentence on Wednesday, until the Court of Appeal has ruled on questions of law of public interest raised by the prosecution. The Criminal Reference hearing is meant to clarify the law which the six individuals were convicted.
Faced with a jail term of 3 years and 4 months, Chew, 56, had said that he needed time and resources to prepare to file a Criminal Reference of his own.
The six former CHC leaders were convicted in 2015 of misappropriating S$50 million of church funds and were sentenced to jail terms of between 21 months and eight years.
However, on April 7 this year, the High Court slashed their sentences on appeal, and jailed them from seven months to three years and six months.
Kong, who received the stiffest sentence, said that he was "filled with grief and regret" over his mistakes.
He requested forgiveness through a media statement issued on Wednesday. "I have, in these past weeks since the release of the judgment, reflected deeply. I have come to terms with what is ahead and am at peace," he said.
Tan, the former deputy senior pastor, was jailed three years and two months, whereas Lam was given one year and six months' jail. Wee was sentenced to two years and six months' jail.
Former finance manager Sharon Tan had initially requested a two-month deferment, citing the relocation of her family to the United States. But on Wednesday, she changed her mind and applied to start her seven-month sentence alongside the rest.