City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee released from prison after serving 2 years, 4 months

Church founder Kong Hee during the City Harvest Church trial. (FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Kong Hee, founder of City Harvest Church, was released from jail on Thursday (22 August) after serving time for his role in misusing millions of church funds.

The pastor left Changi Prison a day ahead of his 55th birthday, about two years and four months after beginning his jail term.

Kong was sentenced to 3.5 years’ jail for misappropriating $50 million in church funds. Inmates typically serve two-thirds of their sentences before being released on remission.

His jail term was the longest meted to six City Harvest Church leaders for their involvement in the fund misappropriation. His sentence had been reduced from eight years’ jail upon appeal.

A statement posted on City Harvest Church confirmed Kong’s release from prison. It added that Kong will be “taking a period to spend time with his family, especially his elderly parents”.

“While serving time, he spent most of his time seeking and studying the things of God,” the statement said, and thanked the church members for their support.

Convicted after 140-day trial in 2015

The six church leaders were convicted in 2015 after a 140-day trial.

The case was unprecedented as it was the largest case of misuse of charitable funds in Singapore to date. It was also unique as the millions were “replaced” through a series of sham investments and shady transactions, with the church ultimately suffering no financial loss.

About $24 million was used to bankroll the secular music career of Kong’s wife Sun Ho and her lifestyle, while the remaining $26 million was used to cover up the first amount to fool auditors and to conceal the unauthorised use of the money from the church's building fund.

With Kong’s release, five of the six church leaders have finished serving their jail terms. Only former fund manager Chew Eng Han is still in jail.

Chew was originally sentenced to three years and four months’ jail. However, a day before he was set to enter prison, he tried to flee the country on a sampan and was given an additional 13 months' jail.

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Six City Harvest Church leaders sentenced to jail

Ex-CHC leader Chew Eng Han given additional 13 months' jail for trying to flee Singapore