The City Harvest Church (CHC) issued a public notice yesterday (22 Aug) after their pastor Kong Hee was released from prison the same day.
In its statement, CHC said that while serving time, Kong spent most of his time “seeking and studying the things of God”.
“Pastor thanks you all for your unceasing prayers these last few years, for him and for his family. Your letters brought him comfort and joy,” it added.
“Pastor will be taking a period to spend time with his family, especially his elderly parents. Please do continue to keep him, Sun, Dayan and his parents in prayer.”
Kong’s release comes one day before he turns 55, which is today (23 Aug). He would thus be eligible to take out all his CPF after setting aside the minimum sum of $176,000 in his Retirement Account.
Kong served only two-thirds of his 3.5-year sentence. His sentence had been reduced from eight years’ jail to 3.5 years upon the successful appeal by his then-lawyer Edwin Tong, who is currently the Senior Minister of State for Law and Health.
In a media interview last year, Senior Minister of State Edwin Tong denied there was any conflict of interest on his part when he was the deputy chair of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Home Affairs and Law while defending Kong Hee at the same time.
During Kong’s appeal, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s verdict and ruled that Section 409 of the Penal Code, which provides for heavier punishments for certain classes of people who commit criminal breaches of trust (CBT), cannot be applied to Kong Hee and the 5 other CHC leaders.
Kong and the rest have been convicted for misusing some $50 million of church funds under a different section, resulting in them getting lighter punishments. It was Tong and his compatriots who successfully argued in High Court that the CHC leaders cannot be considered as “professional agents”, and as such cannot be charged under section 409, which allows for life imprisonment.
The Court of Appeal said such a gap in law should be remedied by Parliament, which prompted the government to move to ensure legislation provides for higher penalties for senior officers who commit CBT too.
Kong barred from holding management position in CHC but wife is on CHC management board
In 2017, the Commissioner of Charities (COC) permanently barred Kong and the other 5 from holding management positions in CHC or any other charity. The Commissioner also prohibited CHC from hiring the six without his approval.
Even though Kong is barred from holding management positions in CHC, according to its latest annual report, his wife is a member on the CHC Management Board:
Part of the reasons Kong got into trouble with the law was because he had misused the church funds to fund his wife’s music career in the US, through sophisticated round-tripping financial engineering methods.
In one instance, $150,000 was blown on a “celebrity party” for his wife in one night alone, at an upmarket popular seaside resort in the Hamptons area of New York. But it did not seem to have any effects on his wife’s music career.
Despite the CHC saga, it is still able to collect tens of millions of dollars in donations every year. In fact, it was reported that CHC collected $29 million in donations in 2018.
It still had about 16,000 church members last year and was among the top 10 richest charities by donations here.
Meanwhile, it’s not known if Kong’s wife, Sun Ho, still dances to the tunes of her album “China Wine” these days.