Five of the six sentenced City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders arrived at the State Courts on Friday 21 April to begin serving their jail terms.
The five had been handed jail terms ranging from seven months to three and a half years for misappropriating $50 million in church funds.
Founding pastor Kong Hee, 52, was the first to arrive at about 8.35am. He was seen talking to congregation members outside the courtroom. He also hugged and shook hands with some of them, and told the media that he is “at peace”.
Some church members looked tearful and the mood was sombre.
In a statement on 19 April, Kong apologised to his congregation and to the wider public saying that he was “truly sorry” for his “unwise decisions”.
As Kong entered the court, some members said, “Bye sir.” Some 40 church members came to the court to say goodbye. One church member arrived at 8.15am to send off her leaders. Esther Sim, 42, a lecturer, told Yahoo Singapore, “Till now, we are still supporting them all the way. I came to give them my support. We’ll see them very soon. Definitely we’ll be sad, but with our God we know that we’re together.”
Former finance manager Sharon Tan, 41, was next to arrive, and former church finance committee member John Lam, 49, was the third to reach the State Courts at about 8.50am. They were followed by former deputy pastor Tan Ye Peng, 44, at about 9.05am.
Sharon Tan initially requested a two-month deferment on her sentence as she wanted to help her husband relocate to the United States. Her defence counsel told the court that she wanted to start her sentence sooner as her husband’s visa had been granted earlier.
Former finance manager Serina Wee, 40, was the last to arrive at about 9.10am. She walked to the courts hand-in-hand with her husband and wore a pair of shades.
Both Wee and Sharon Tan had also cut their hair.
When Wee, who had been seen crying before she entered the courtroom, was asked by a reporter how she was feeling, her husband answered, ”What do you think?”
Former CHC fund manger Chew Eng Han, 56, was granted a deferment after indicating that he wanted to file a criminal reference for his case.
In a statement posted on the church’s website, Pastors Aries Zulkarnain and Bobby Chaw urged the congregation to continue to pray for them. “We will not see them for a season, but we must continue to uphold them in prayer,” said the statement.
— Additional reporting by Gabriel Choo