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Shanmugam: Public prosecutor does not intend to file any applications in respect of three directors currently serving time for CBT

Law Minister K Shanmugam told Parliament on Tuesday (20 March) that the public prosecutor does not intend to file any applications in respect of three directors currently serving time for criminal breach of trust (CBT), despite a recent ruling excluding the embezzling City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders from receiving similar punishment.

He then stated that all three had pleaded guilty under section 409, adding that they were convicted and sentenced before the High Court changed the interpretation of the law regarding section 409 of the Penal Code.

Under Section 409 of the Penal Code, heavier punishments are being concerned for certain groups of CBT offenders and includes life imprisonment.

In 2017, the High Court ruled that “agents” as defined by Section 409 does not include the following: Directors of corporations, governing board members, key officers of charities or officers of societies. Thus, it stressed that it could not be applied to the CHC leaders who misused over S$50 million of funds in a fraud designed to embellish the pop music ventures of Ho Yeow Sun, the wife of church founder Kong Hee.

Therefore, Kong, Chew Eng Han, John Lam, Sharon Tan, Tan Ye Peng and Serina Wee could only be convicted and sentenced under section 406 instead, which carries up to seven years in jail.

Mr Shanmugam told the House that the three directors convicted and sentenced under section 409 are presently on community-based programmes - including home detentions - and scheduled for release in a few weeks, between May and June this year.

"There are in fact 15 persons currently serving sentences for section 409 offences. Of these 15 persons, three were directors. The remaining 12 who comprise eight professional agents of one sort or another – insurance agents and so on – one attorney, and three public servants. The 12, as I explained yesterday, they are not affected by the ruling of ‘directors’," he stated.

The minister was referring to his response to a parliamentary question the day before, where in similar fashion he noted that the 12 were convicted, sentenced before the High Court reviewed and changed the interpretation of the law regarding section 409, and the Public Prosecutor does not intend to file any applications in respect of them.