Former City Harvest Church (CHC) fund manager Chew Eng Han was on Tuesday (29 January) sentenced to an additional 13 months’ jail, nearly a year after a foiled attempt to leave the country illegally by boat.
Chew, 58, had claimed trial to one charge each of leaving Singapore by an unauthorised port of embarkation and defeating the course of justice by attempting to avoid serving the sentence he received for CHC-related offences.
He is currently serving a jail term of three years and four months for offences involving the misappropriation of $50 million of church funds. His charges include criminal breach of trust.
The latest sentencing will commence at the end of his current jail term.
During his half-day trial, lawyers representing Chew argued that the charge of leaving Singapore illegally was not made out, as he was on the way to another rendezvous point and had not left Singapore waters when he was caught. The lawyers said the charge would only be made out if Chew had embarked on the second leg of the journey.
Attempted to escape right before he was due to serve jail term
Chew had attempted to leave on a motorised sampan on 21 February last year, a day before he was due to serve his jail term for past offences involving the misuse of millions in CHC funds.
Acting on a tip-off, the Police Coast Guard (PCG) intercepted Chew’s sampan about 2.4km off Pulau Ubin, in the vicinity of Chek Jawa Wetlands and Pulau Sekudu at 8.43am.
According to the prosecution, Chew admitted that he wanted to leave Singapore as he “felt injustice and unfair” over his High Court case and that he did not want to be convicted.
He sought to flee Singapore as early as October 2017, when he went to Queen Street’s bus terminal to seek drivers.
He met Khoo Kea Leng, a Malaysian freelance driver who ferried people between Singapore and Malaysia. Chew initially rejected Khoo’s quoted price of $18,000 but later asked Khoo to arrange a departure by boat.
Plan for escape under guise of a fisherman
Khoo made the arrangements and settled for a price of $12,000. He told Chew to meet him at Marine Drive to discuss the escape plan, and also asked him to prepare fishing equipment to disguise himself as a fisherman.
Shortly after midnight on 21 February, Chew received instructions to meet at Changi Village at 7.30am. His elder brother dropped him off at the location with the fishing equipment at 7.20am.
He was later directed to take a boat to Pulau Ubin Jetty as there were PCG patrol boats in the vicinity of Changi Village. Chew took a boat to the jetty and later boarded another boat, which was piloted by Singaporean fish farmer Tan Poh Teck.
The boat was intercepted by PCG shortly after, and the two men were arrested.
For the charge of attempting to leave Singapore from an unauthorised port of embarkation, Chew could be jailed up to six months or fined up to $2,000. He also faces maximum jail term of three and a half years and/or a fine on the charge of defeating the course of justice.