Singapore’s City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee conspired with five others to misuse S$50.6 million ($41 million) of the church’s funds to promote his wife’s music career, a prosecutor said at the start of a trial.
Kong and the others devised sham bond investments to embezzle S$24 million, money meant for a new church building, using most of it to finance Ho Yeow Sun’s pop singing work, prosecutor Mavis Chionh said today in a Singapore subordinate court. Ho isn’t charged with any offence.
“The evidence will show that the offenses were part of a deliberately planned, meticulously coordinated and carefully executed scheme,” Chionh said.
Four of them, not including Kong, illegally used an additional S$26.6 million to try and hide the misappropriation, prosecutors say. All six pleaded not guilty. If convicted, Kong faces a jail term of as long as 20 years and a fine for each of the three counts of misappropriation.
The trial is the largest graft case involving a Singapore charity. The city’s Commissioner of Charities has proposed removing Kong as a governing board member of the church. City Harvest has said it stands by Kong and the others charged and denied allegations it was cheated of the money.
Singapore’s white-collar crime agency, the Commercial Affairs Department, and the charities’ commissioner began investigating the church in May 2010.
City Harvest had 19,819 followers in 2012, according to its website. The church, registered as a charity since 1993, had earnings of about S$72 million for the year ended Oct. 31, 2009, according to the regulator of charities.
The church in 2010 proposed to spend S$310 million for a stake in the Suntec International Convention & Exhibition Centre as well as related rent and renovation costs related to the use of that space for its services.
The criminal case is: Prosecutor v. Kong Hee. DAC023148/2012. Singapore Subordinate Courts.