Former City Harvest Church (CHC) fund manager Chew Eng Han was arrested for attempting to flee Singapore by a motorised sampan on Wednesday (21 February), a day before he was to serve his sentence for misappropriating the church’s funds.
Following a tip-off, the 57-year-old, along with 53-year-old Tan Poh Teck, was intercepted by three Police Coast Guard (PCG) boats in the sea off Pulau Ubin at about 8.47am on Wednesday, said Commander of Police Coast Guard, Senior Assistant Commissioner (SAC) of Police Hsu Sin Yun at a news conference held at Loyang Regional Base.
The police declined to say how the two are related.
Preliminary investigations showed that Chew and Tan, who was piloting the sampan, were attempting to depart Singapore illegally from Pulau Ubin to Malaysia.
The duo was found with about $5,000 in cash, fishing equipment, and three mobile phones. Tan was similarly arrested for attempting to leave Singapore unlawfully.
Yahoo News Singapore understands that when approached at sea, Chew and Tan told PCG officers that they were fishing, although there were no indications of them doing so at the point in time.
It is also understood that Chew had boarded the sampan at the Pulau Ubin jetty and the duo was found about 2.4km away from the island.
SAC Hsu said, “PCG will continue to safeguard our waters and sea borders against crime and security threats, including unauthorised entry into and departure from Singapore.”
Meanwhile, a third man, 61-year-old Chew Eng Soon, was arrested at 3.40pm on the same day for abetting the offence. Yahoo News Singapore understands that he is Chew’s older brother.
The younger Chew is currently held in lock-up at the Police Cantonment Complex and will be charged in court on Thursday morning along with Tan. Police investigations are ongoing.
If found guilty of leaving Singapore illegally, the duo can be jailed for up to six months and/or fined up to $2,000.
Those found guilty of abetting a person to leave Singapore illegally can be jailed for six months to two years, and be fined up to $6,000.
City Harvest Church saga
In November 2015, Chew and five other former CHC leaders – including 53-year-old church founder Kong Hee – were convicted for misappropriating $24 million in the church’s building funds to fund the secular music career of Kong’s wife Sun Ho. Another $26 million was misused to cover up the initial crime.
The six were sentenced to between 21 months and eight years in jail. They later had their jail terms reduced to between seven months and three years and six months, following an appeal where they were found guilty of a lesser form of criminal breach of trust (CBT) by the High Court in April last year.
The Court of Appeal upheld the reduced sentences imposed by the High Court earlier this month.
In Chew’s case, he was originally sentenced to a jail term of six years, which was later reduced to three years and four months.
Chew, who was out on bail, had his sentence deferred to start after the Chinese New Year holiday period, while the other five started serving their sentences on April 21 last year. One of them, former finance manager Sharon Tan, 41, has completed her sentence.
In July and August last year, Chew, who represented himself, had on two separate occasions filed criminal references to challenge his CBT conviction. Both were rejected by the Court of Appeal, which called Chew’s second bid an “abuse of court process” that was “devoid of merit”.
Following the appeal court’s verdict on 1 February this year, Chew, who was with his wife and daughter, told reporters that it came out as “(they had) hoped for” and added that he had “no strong feelings” after all that he had been through.