City Harvest stands by disgraced pastor

Updated at 1.30pm – With comments from the police and the Attorney-General's Chambers

City Harvest Church (CHC) has thrown its weight behind its founder Kong Hee and four other key members who were charged Wednesday over alleged misuse of the charity’s funds.

In a statement released by executive pastor Aries Zulkarnain on Thursday evening, the church stated that it is standing by the five individuals.

"The people currently in the news are our pastors and trusted staff and leaders who have always put God and CHC first," he said. "As a church we stand with them and i believe fully in their integrity."

The statement also said that Kong, 47, and his deputy pastor Tan Ye Peng, 39, who both face charges of criminal breach of trust, will continue preaching at the megachurch.

Addressing the current charges that stand against the five accused leaders, Zulkarnain maintained that the church did not lose any money in the transactions detailed in the charges, which list two separate amounts of S$24 million and a further S$26.6 million.

"The S$24 million, which went into investment bonds, was returned to the church in full, with interest... The church did not lose any funds in the relevant transactions, and no personal profit was gained by the individuals concerned," he said.

In response to the church’s statement, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) said, “We wish to reiterate that as criminal charges are now before the court and will be subject to adjudication by the court; and that as such, neither the prosecution nor any other party should comment on issues which will be subject to adjudication and on which evidence will be led in court.”

The police, responding to the same statement, said, "Generally, in law, the offence of criminal breach of trust of monies is established once there is misappropriation of the monies with the requisite intent, regardless of whether there have or have not been subsequent attempts at restitution by the accused.”

Still, the church's pastor in charge of missions Bobby Chaw said the church had taken measures to meet the code of governance that was established by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports over the past two years.

Noting that half of the church’s management board had been replaced with new members, Chaw pointed out that a full internal audit had been carried out, with the church putting into action the recommendations made from it.

He said also that the church was surprised that the Commissioner of Charities (COC) had suspended the eight church leaders -- the five who were charged, as well as Kong's wife and U.S.-based singer Ho Yeow Sun, 40, and two others -- without prior notice.

Chaw also said in the statement that certain media outlets "seem to have pre-judged" the case, particularly in relation to their treatment of the COC inquiry, adding that they will be dealt with "in due course".

Kong, Tan and three other City Harvest leaders were on Tuesday arrested for questioning by the Commercial Affairs Department on allegations of misuse of some $23 million in church funds to advance Sun Ho’s music career.

The COC said in an earlier statement that an inquiry it conducted found a “concerted effort” had been made by the five to conceal the mismanagement from the church’s thousands of attendees, many of whom donate substantial portions of their incomes through tithing.

The five were later charged in court on Wednesday with a total of 33 charges of criminal breach of trust and falsifying church accounts to cover up discrepancies. They are now all out on bail.

Before Thursday evening’s statement, the church had only informed its community that its operations and cell group meetings would proceed as usual, including its weekend services at the Singapore Expo and its main building in Jurong West, but had declined further comment on the case as it was before the courts.

  • Ford plants a new Mustang on the Empire State Building in style 39 minutes ago
    Ford plants a new Mustang on the Empire State Building in style

    Fifty years ago this week, Ford made history by staging the greatest car launch in history — building up the drama around its new Mustang with stunts like papering over dealership windows and landing on the covers of both Time and Newsweek magazine. To celebrate its anniversary, Ford re-created a stunt it last pulled off in 1965 — landing a new Mustang on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building.

  • All-new 2015 Toyota Camry becomes an edgier appliance 1 hour 10 minutes ago
    All-new 2015 Toyota Camry becomes an edgier appliance

    Toyota finds itself in a tricky situation. Those that enjoy cars as more than a simple means of transportation think of the Camry as a bland spongecake gone stale. And yet it's been the best-selling vehicle in the entire industry for the past 12 years, with a car rolling off the production line every 65 seconds. So how do you add flavor to your insipid dish without alienating your loyal -- and vast -- customer base? Enter the 2015 Camry: Toyota's attempt to engage enthusiasts while appeasing to those that think a turbo is nothing but make-believe snail.

  • New Hyundai Sonata grows into a large contender 1 hour 13 minutes ago
    New Hyundai Sonata grows into a large contender

    So it’s taken a while, but Hyundai is in the big leagues now. There is rife evidence of this in its sales numbers, reliability ratings and white paper indices, but the most telling indicator to us, perhaps, is that Hyundai no longer feels the need to overdesign or mimic other automobile designs as if to say, “Look, we can build good cars, too! They look just like these other nice ones!”

  • Supermodel Qi Qi is afraid of flying
    Supermodel Qi Qi is afraid of flying

    The supermodel said that she will take her daughter in a vacation but will try to avoid boarding a plane

  • One dead as S. Korea ferry with 476 passengers sinks
    One dead as S. Korea ferry with 476 passengers sinks

    South Korea's coastguard said Wednesday one person had been killed as it struggled to rescue 476 people -- mostly high school students -- aboard a ferry that ran aground and sank off the southern coast. "The ferry is almost completely submerged," Lee said, adding that a detachment of South Korean Navy SEALS were taking part in the rescue. Of the 450 passengers on board the ferry bound for the southern resort island of Jeju, 325 were students from a high school in Ansan, south of Seoul. The 6,825-tonne ferry, which had sailed out of the western port of Incheon on Tuesday evening, ran into trouble some 20 kilometres (13 miles) off the island of Byungpoong.

  • ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says
    ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — The “huge” statues at a Hindu temple in Batu Caves and Buddhist temple in Penang are an affront to Islam as the religion forbids idolatry, a retired Court of Appeals judge...