In yet another twist in the long-running saga of the City Harvest Church (CHC) case, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) is seeking to reinstate the original sentences of the six convicted CHC leaders.
In a media statement on Monday (10 April), the AGC said that it had filed a Criminal Reference to refer certain questions of law to the Court of Appeal. “Having carefully considered the written grounds, the Prosecution is of the view that there are questions of law of public interest that have arisen out of the High Court’s decision.”
Of particular interest is the issue of whether a director or a member of the governing body of a company or organisation who is entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, is considered an “agent” under section 409 of the Penal Code.
The AGC added, “If the Court of Appeal answers the questions referred in accordance with the Prosecution’s submissions, the Prosecution intends to request that the Court of Appeal exercises its powers under section 397(5) to reinstate the appellants’ original convictions under section 409 of the Penal Code.”
Last Friday, the High Court significantly reduced the sentences of CHC senior pastor Kong Hee, Deputy Senior Pastor Tan Ye Peng, former board member John Lam, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, former finance manager Serina Wee and Wee’s successor, former finance manager Sharon Tan.
Both prosecution and defence had appealed against their original sentences, ranging from one year and six months to eight years, which were handed out in November 2015. The leaders were convicted of varying charges of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and falsifying of accounts after they were accused of misappropriating millions in church funds to support the music career of Kong’s wife, Sun Ho, in a church mission known as the Crossover Project.
In its judgement, the High Court reduced the CHC leaders’ CBT charges from section 409 to section 406 of the Penal Code. In a split decision, the Court ruled that the defendants as directors did not fall as “agents” under the aggravated CBT offences under section 409, which are more serious offences providing for higher maximum penalties, the majority view decided.
The AGC’s move follows comments by Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who said on Saturday that the AGC was considering taking further steps on the CHC case.