On Friday this week (7 April), the High Court reduced the sentences of all six former City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders in favour of their appeal.
All six former church leaders were found guilty of misappropriating S$50 million of church funds.
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.
Mr Shanmugam said to the media, “The AGC told the government that they were appealing, and they gave their reasons, and the government believes that the original sentences were too low as well”.
Mr Shanmugam also noted that the High Court disagreed with the AGC and that two judges looking at the appeal said that directors are not agents, therefore submitting a lower charge of Criminal Breach of Trust. This resulted in the finalised reduced sentences passed on Friday.
“This may have serious implications for other cases, including corruption cases, against directors. We will have to consider what steps to take, and I have asked AGC for advice,” Mr Shanmugam said.
On the comments made by members of public regarding the judgement by the Court of Appeal, he said: “Judgments can be discussed, criticised. Everyone has a right to do that. But people should abstain from abusing the judges themselves. Judges decide based on the facts before them, and set out the reasons. If we don’t agree, we take it further, and where necessary, we change the law through Parliament.”
He said he noted the High Court’s comments on the way the case was conducted by the prosecution and has asked the new Attorney-General and Deputy Attorneys-General to look into this.
“It may take time, but we have good people at the top, and they should be able to deal with it,” he said.