What City Harvest Church leaders can expect in Changi Prison http://bit.ly/2ovzaRh
City Harvest court case to be heard by five-judge panel on Aug 1 http://tdy.sg/2pmG1fy
What surprises me is that there are still people who support this pastor. They are in complete denial.
Anybody here lost money?
Former City Harvest Church leaders barred from holding office in charities http://bit.ly/2qaWZmu
City Harvest case: Public prosecutor's appeal to be heard on Tuesday
SINGAPORE: Singapore’s highest court is due to hear the public prosecutor’s appeal on Tuesday (Aug 1) on reinstating the original convictions of the six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders.
The church leaders, including founder and pastor Kong Hee, were found guilty in 2015 of misappropriating S$50 million of church funds, a record amount in Singapore’s legal history. They were originally convicted of the most aggravated form of Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) under section 409 of the Penal Code.
However, after all six appealed against their convictions, the High Court – in a split decision in April - convicted them of a reduced charge under section 406 of the Penal Code. This resulted in their jail sentences being more or less halved, ranging from three-and-a-half years to seven months.
Kong Hee, senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, former secretary of the church’s management board John Lam and former finance manager Serina Wee will be brought to court from prison, as they decided to start serving their reduced jail terms on Apr 21, as did former finance manager Sharon Tan.
Former fund manager Chew Eng Han, who is representing himself, is on bail pending the outcome of the appeal.
The Deputy Attorney-General, Senior Counsel Hri Kumar Nair, is expected to lead the prosecution on Tuesday.
The prosecution had filed a “criminal reference” in April to the Court of Appeal to clarify the law under which the High Court made its decision to cut the jail terms of all six church leaders.
That High Court decision hinged on the wording of section 409 of the Penal Code, which lays down the law for criminal breach of trust by an “agent”, the most serious form of criminal misappropriation.
Two of the judges, Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justice Woo Bih Li, were not satisfied that the church leaders acted as “professional agents” – “ones who profess to offer their agency services to the community at large … for profit”.
And while the amount involved - S$50 million - is substantial, the two judges said mitigating factors could not be ignored. These included the conclusion that there was no personal gain on the part of Kong and his accomplices and that they acted in "what they genuinely believed to be in (the church’s) interests.”
They convicted the six of the least serious form of criminal breach of trust under section 406, for which the maximum punishment is seven years’ jail and a fine. Section 409 provides for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment or up to 20 years’ jail and a fine.
Justice Chan Seng Onn disagreed with the other judges.
Three days after the split decision, the public prosecutor filed a “criminal reference” to bring the long-running case before the Court of Appeal, the highest court in the land.
The appeal on Tuesday will be heard by a five-judge panel, including Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash as well as Justices Belinda Ang, Quentin Loh and Chua Lee Ming.
If the public prosecutor’s appeal is successful, the original jail terms of Kong and his five co-conspirators could be reinstated. They were originally sentenced to jail terms of between eight years and one year and nine months.
Emotional hearing for CHC members as they see ex-leaders looking grey and haggard http://str.sg/4zdi
Still no end to this...
City Harvest case: Court of Appeal reserves judgment on April ruling
SINGAPORE: The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment on the prosecutor's bid to seek clarification on the High Court's ruling in April this year that convicted the six City Harvest Church leaders on reduced charges and cut their sentences.
The apex court on Tuesday (Aug 1) said it would deliver its judgment "in due course" but did not specify when.
On Tuesday morning, the public gallery was full and the anticipation palpable as pastor Kong Hee was led into the Court of Appeal shortly before 10am, dressed in a purple prison uniform and handcuffed. His hair was white and cropped in a short crew cut.
He was closely followed by former deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, former secretary of City Harvest Church’s management board John Lam and former finance managers Sharon Tan Shao Yuen and Serina Wee. The other two men, Lam and Tan, had their heads shaved while both women had their hair cut in short bobs.
All five appeared in good spirits, nodding and smiling at friends in the gallery.
The sixth person involved, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, arrived at about 9.45am. Because he is representing himself, the High Court allowed him to remain on bail to prepare for the hearing, which began at 10am sharp.
Some of their family members were also seen in court. Kong’s wife, singer Ho Yeow Sun, was not present.
Public interest in the case remained high, with all 55 tickets for the public snapped up by 7am.
Members of the public who did not secure a ticket were seen waiting outside the courtroom for the chance to take the spot of anyone leaving the packed public gallery.
Some supporters of the church leaders were seen wiping tears as the convicts arrived.
TWO QUESTIONS OF LAW
The public prosecutor had referred the case to the Court of Appeal – Singapore’s highest court – following a High Court decision to convict Kong and five others of reduced charges and slashing their jail terms.
For misappropriating S$50 million of church funds, a record amount in Singapore’s legal history, the leaders were originally convicted of the most aggravated form of criminal breach of trust (CBT) under section 409 of the Penal Code and were sentenced to jail terms of between eight years and 21 months.
However, after all six appealed against their convictions, the High Court – in a split decision in April - convicted them of a reduced charge under section 406 of the Penal Code, the least aggravated form of criminal breach of trust.
Tuesday's proceedings are being presided over by a five-judge panel composed of Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash and Justices Belinda Ang, Quentin Loh and Chua Lee Ming.
Before this panel, Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair said the prosecution had referred the case to the apex court to resolve two questions of law of public interest:
Under section 409, does the expression “in the way of his business as an agent” refer only to a person who is a professional agent?
Whether directors of companies and the equivalent in societies or charities entrusted with property are entrusted “in the way of his business as an agent”.
The High Court decision had hinged on the wording of section 409, which lays down the law for criminal breach of trust by an “agent”.
In a split decision (2-1), the court found Kong and the others did not act as “professional agents”, defined as “ones who professed to offer their agency services to the community at large … for profit”.
The judges in the majority - Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justice Woo Bih Li - acknowledged their decision would upset the state of affairs, but said: “This does not, however, mean that we can ignore the wording of the (law). We agree that it is intuitively unsatisfactory.”
On Tuesday, Mr Kumar argued that the High Court’s “absurd”, “incorrect” interpretation of the law “… leads to absurd results where high-ranking directors who are in a position to misappropriate huge amounts of money are subject to less severe punishment than low-ranking employees - a result which the majority itself conceded as 'intuitively unsatisfactory'".
“This is not quite right,” he said, acknowledging that the High Court’s decision had highlighted “a gap in the law”, and that the decision has caused “conflict of judicial authority in Singapore” in relation to “the proper interpretation of section 409”.
The Court of Appeal could remedy the situation by considering other “possible, reasonable” interpretations of the law, Mr Kumar said.
He urged the court to consider that the intent behind aggravated criminal breach of trust offences was to punish more severe breaches of trust.
“In the circumstances, it is beyond doubt that the intention and purpose behind section 409 was to punish more severely persons who held positions of trust and confidence whose breaches of trust would have serious consequences. It had nothing to do with whether these persons were engaged in profit making, offered their services to the community at large or were external to the persons entrusting them with property.”
However, Judge Phang said the courts may not be the “correct institution” to fill that “gap in the law”.
“Are these policy arguments that the legislature should take account of and amend the law accordingly?” he asked.
A GAP IN THE LAW
Lawyers for Kong and five others jointly argued that any “gap in the law” should be filled by Parliament. “It’s not the court’s place to deal with it,” Mr Andre Maniam, who represented Serina Wee, said.
Pointing to similar “gaps in the law” faced by the UK and Malaysia, Mr Maniam said these jurisdictions solved the problem by amending their laws.
Malaysia, for example, amended the law in 1993 to read: “… in his capacity of a public servant or an agent.” They removed the phrase “in the business of an agent”, Mr Maniam argued, “because that is what stands in the way of a conviction under section 409”.
The High Court took the view that the gap is a policy one, to be filled by legislation, Senior Counsel N Sreenivasan said. “The Public Prosecutor takes the view it has to be filled up by judicial construction, by creating a type of liability that section 409 does not envisage,” he argued.
“They’re (the prosecution) is saying it’s awful, it’s terrible that directors don’t get caught under section 409. The High Court agreed … the difference is they took the view that the gap has to be filled … by legislation,” Mr Sreenivasan said.
The “unease” of the High Court, in coming to its “intuitively unsatisfactory” decision, “is not something that undermines the decision,” Mr Sreenivasan argued. “It validates it.”
“It validates it because they were fully aware … how badly that interpretation (of section 409) would sit with our normal instincts. In spite of knowing this, they took the view that it is better to give a ‘plain’ (or literal) reading to the (law) … (to) avoid ambiguity,” Mr Sreenivasan said. He represented Pastor Tan Ye Peng.
The lawyer cautioned the apex court against “bringing in what you want the statute to mean. We all want a lot of things … doesn’t mean you construct provisions to meet your needs,” he said. “You cannot full (the gap) by construction. That is not serving the purpose of the (law),” he added.
Mr Sreenivasan also criticised the prosecution’s submissions and joked that their arguments before the court “will make a wonderful Second Reading speech for amendments to section 409”.
Senior Counsel Kenneth Tan, representing John Lam, said prosecutors were “not just trying to put a square peg into a round hole”. They are “trying to put a square peg into a non-existent hole. They’re asking this court to design a square hole.
“It’s for Parliament … because this court doesn’t design square holes,” Mr Tan said, to laughter in the public gallery.
Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang, who led the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, expressed this concern several times throughout the five-hour hearing: “Where is the line to be drawn between interpretation and legislation? That is the key question.”
“The majority (at the High Court) acknowledged there is a limit to how much they can interpret (how far they can ‘stretch’ the law) and they cannot legislate,” JA Phang said.
“We’re looking at the (Penal Code), the vast majority of the Code has not been amended for well over 150 years. So it is entirely conceivable that what was suitable at that historical point in time may not be suitable now,” he added.
At the end of the hearing, JA Phang said the court would reserve judgment, and deliver it “in due course”.
City Harvest Church case: Chew Eng Han fails in second bid to fight conviction
SINGAPORE: Singapore's highest court on Wednesday (Sep 6) rejected former City Harvest Church fund manager Chew Eng Han's second attempt to challenge his conviction for criminal breach of trust, calling it "an abuse of process and devoid of merit".
Chew, 57, is one of six church leaders convicted in 2015 of misappropriating S$50 million of church funds.
He had his original six-year jail sentence lowered to three years and four months, in a split decision by the High Court in April 2017, and is the only one of the six who has not started his jail term.
On Aug 1, Chew filed a criminal motion seeking permission to refer a question of law of public interest to the Court of Appeal. He urged the court to consider the question of whether his conviction amounted to a violation of his constitutional rights.
Chew argued that his case was "unique" and "unprecedented", because it was the first time that the courts have convicted someone of criminal breach of trust for misusing funds for the purpose and benefit of the owner - in this case the church - instead of to line his or her own pockets.
In doing so, Chew said that the court had violated his constitutional rights under Article 11 of the constitution, which states that "no person shall be punished for an act ... which was not punishable by law when it was done".
Chew argued that he should not be retrospectively incriminated or punished for putting the church's money to "wrong use", when he had a "legitimate expectation" at the time that he was not running afoul of the law since the funds were being used for the church's benefit.
"The most important point (here) is that this is (Chew's) second such application," prosecutors said in court on Wednesday. They accused Chew of "drip-feeding" the court his applications in an attempt to "prolong this matter and delay his entry into prison," Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong said.
He also called Chew's argument that his conviction had violated his constitutional rights "absurd". "There is a distinction to be drawn between new law and new facts," the prosecutor explained. "Based on (Chew's) logic, if someone were to commit murder by poison for the first time ... should he be let go?"
APPLICATION IS "AN ABUSE OF PROCESS": JUDGES OF APPEAL
After an hour-long hearing, the Court of Appeal, comprising Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash and Justice Quentin Loh, threw out Chew's application, calling it an "abuse of process". They added that no one can be allowed to "drip-feed his application" to indefinitely prolong the process via "back-door" appeals.
Since Chew's first application had addressed the point, he should not be allowed to "rehash the question he posed in his previous application," they said.
The judges added that the "abusiveness of the application (was) also reflected in its utter lack of merit" and that the application had "no prospect of success".
Chew's argument was based on a "clear misreading of the decisions of the courts below", they said.
"The courts below had considered (this case) 'unique' because, unlike other cases, the accused persons were not motivated by personal gain and had acted according to what they thought would ultimately have advanced the interests of CHC.
"But the courts made it clear that this had no bearing on their determination as to whether the accused persons should be convicted," the judges said, pointing to the High Court's unanimous decision to uphold Chew's conviction for criminal breach of trust, albeit differing on which section of the law he should have been convicted under. A decision by the Court of Appeal
City Harvest case: Court of Appeal reserves judgment on April ruling
The hearing at the Court of Appeal dealt with a “criminal reference” the prosecution filed to clarify the law under which the court ruled to cut ...
in this case.
In any case, the High Court's judgement to uphold Chew's conviction is "final and authoritative on these issues," the judges said.
In rejecting Chew's application, the judges said they saw "no basis for leave to be granted to bring this or any further criminal references on the same subject matter".
"Such applications would be nothing more than a blatant abuse of process and will not be entertained by this court."
Chew Eng Han was simply a useful idiot. He never stood to gain whatsoever. However, the law is the law.