The High Court has reduced the sentences of all six former City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders on Friday (7 April) in favour of their appeal.
The Founder of CHC and Senior Pastor Kong Hee had his prison sentence reduced to three years and six months from eight years.
As for the others that were charged, former Fund Manager Chew Eng Han had his six-year sentence reduced to three years and four months, Deputy Pastor Tan Ye Peng’s sentence was lowered from five-and-a-half-year sentence to three years and two months, former Finance Manager Serina Wee Gek Yin’s sentence got reduced from a five-year sentence to two years and six months, former Finance Committee Member John Lam Leng Hung got a reduced sentence from three years to one year and six months, and former Finance Manager Sharon Tan Shao Yuen got her sentence lowered from a 21-month jail term to seven months.
The hearing was attended by a three-judge panel – Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justices Woo Bih Li and Chan Seng Onn.The verdict was finally delivered after the long-running trial which started in 2013.
Kong, Lam, Chew, Wee and Tan Ye asked the court to have their sentences to start in two weeks so they can still celebrate Easter day with their families. The court agreed to this.
Sharon, on the other hand, asked for two months deferment as her family is moving to the United States. She wants to be able to help her child adjust to the new environment. The court also agreed to her request.
Chew has two weeks to consider if he wishes to bring the case up to the apex court.
Many netizens commented that the charges were simply unfair as they misappropriated $50 million, saying that they were setting bad examples. Here are what they wrote in full:
- Zhengquan Qin wrote, “K Shanmugam, what is wrong with our judicial system? What message are you sending to the kids? That white collar criminals get major discounts off jail time? If this kind of injustice is allowed to persist in our systems, I really fear we will head down the path of seeing a trump like populist administration one day. When the public loses complete faith in the “establishment”. Do you really want this?”
- Ivan Yong wrote, “I have lost faith in SG justice system. Rich people can get away with a crime committed.”
- Pei Shiang wrote, “What! What is the court telling people? Cheat people of their money until you are rich, with the cheated monies, hire big shot lawyers till you get reduced sentences and waste taxpayers’ money for 7 years!!!”
- Alan Ng wrote, “First the Ang mo rapist gets off lightly. Then our attorney general says Ong Teng Cheong is not our first nominated president. Now, this. How not to lose faith in our legal system?? So much public outcry but at the end, so what? Who’s listening?”
- Kang Chin Lin wrote, “This is the saddest day in Singapore’s Judiciary. The Supreme Court Judge must be a Christian who sympathises with these corrupted crooks who call themselves Christians by giving all of them a reduced sentence. Such a disgrace to the Christian community. I bet you if LKY is still around, none of this nonsense would have existed!”
- Marsha Xu wrote, “Speechless! Pity Ming Yi from Ren Ci. He was jailed nine months for misappropriating $50,000 but money was reinstated. 3 years and 6 months for $50 million. Judges of appeal, you people failed in your maths. Pui!!”
- Andy Yeo wrote, “Lesson learnt:
1. Start up a church and organise your gangs for a perfect plan.
2. Get an MP lawyer who is your church member with a connection.
3. Get your plan executed similarly to KH plan.
4. Go to Japan to pray for suicide deaths and sell your holy ointment too.
5. Check out Changi holiday camp and live for next 3.5 years for the next big plan again!
6. By 55-year-old you could be the next billionaire or Top 10 richest man in Singapore!”
- Richmond Lim wrote, “Wah this is really preposterous. Still, allow them deferred sentences to enjoy and celebrate festivities with their family members? Most people on the day upon sentencing they head straight to jail and shave their heads! Defer for so long already still continue to grant them deferment? Next time someone gets a jail sentence please tell the judge to defer so you can celebrate National Day, see they can approve or not.”
- Jason Teo wrote, “”None of the appellants could be said to have benefited, and their fault lies in adopting the wrong means, said the judges.” What about their house in Sentosa and Beverly Hills? Pui!”
- Eugene Tavano wrote, “16-year-old given heavy sentence on first offence from which he also did not derive financial gain.
But very sophisticated, grown up and educated and knowledgeable enough to devise devilish schemes to skirt the boundaries of the laws on the pretext promoting good, allowed to continue lavish lifestyle, promote warped values, walk freely before having sentence greatly reduced. And allowed more time to roam free before jail!”
- Rudy RR wrote, “Cult 1, Justice 0.
Poorer people in more dire straits have been jailed for longer when they embezzled or misappropriated so much less than $50 million.
All this for a horse’s pop star fantasy/dream. Not to pay off loan sharks, or some relative’s hospital bill.
I guess it’s true in this world. As long as you’re rich, well known, well connected, you can get away with almost ANYTHING with just a relatively paltry slap on the wrist.
If I were to misappropriate $50k. I wonder how much I would be jailed for? $50K is like 0.1% of $50 mil. That’s 0.1 percent of 3.5 years.I should be jailed a total of 1.27 days.
Seems like a bloody good deal, wouldn’t you say?
Oh wait. I’m not rich or famous or have a cult behind me. Too bad.”
- Liza Horvejkul wrote, “Deferments for jail sentences??!! Citing reasons such as spending time with their family members??!! Perhaps they should have thought about that before swindling people of their money. Our judicial system is pathetic and they are not taking these crimes committed by these people seriously. These requests for deferments might be used as a chance for them to leave the country and escape imprisonment.”
- Jonathan Lim wrote, “So this is how the law works.
First you cheat. then you cheat again to cover the first cheat.
As long as no money lost, you are safe.
I have lost faith in our legal system.
“The case is unprecedented also because the millions were “replaced” through a series of sham investments and shady transactions, and the church ultimately suffered no financial loss”.”
- Wilkie Ong Keng Songa wrote, “Case had dragged on for ages, now sentencing had been passed and all still gave excuses to defer. Courts have been very generous to defer them, think some of them will disappear for good as their only escape from jail. All the spending time with family are just excuses, they had all the time before today.”
- Colin Phua wrote, “Who wants to open a church? Count me in. Let’s call it holliest of holliest church ( HHC). Scam people use people money pay lawyers then the got halves the sentence. Meantime the wife can continue business as usual. 3.5 years later hubby comes out jail can still stand and enjoy. Kill people death sentence but scam people gets only 3.5 year jail. Great business model. Pm me to set up HHC”
- Keith Lee wrote, “This church should close down in order not to harm people anymore.”
- Christine Yu wrote, “For the amount of money (S$50m) involved, there should be longer sentences. If max is 20 years for the crime, the main culprit should at least get 10-12 years.”
- Francesca Drose wrote, “The law is way too lenient. He and his team cheated gullible people. 3 years is nothing. Hypocrites in disguise. I’m sure his stupid flock will still follow him.”
- Yew Ah Tee wrote, “Deeply sadden and disappointed with the judge.”Few years from now I will be able to live very good life as compare to ppl who work hard to earn their families upkeep.”
- Zac teo wrote, “Now, Singapore can fully declare : conners, scammers, cheaters, especially rich and famous. Our judge system welcome you all here to make a crime.
The judge will cut off your all jail sentences.”