Tan Ye Peng, Serina Wee, Chew Eng Han, John Lam, Kong Hee and Sharon Tan. (Photos: Ngau Kai Yan)

“The apex court said it would deliver its judgement “in due course”, but did not specify when. Looks like this case still has a ways to go”

No Singapore media has expressly stated it, but it appears this appeal by Singapore Prosecution is a one day event.

The Singapore Apex Court has been asked to rule on specific interpretations of Singapore law to ascertain if Kong Hee and his fellow leaders and staff can be regarded by law as “agents” in the matter of defrauding and deceiving their congregants and of breaking Singapore Charity laws.

If they are held to be “agents” then their original sentences may be reinstated.

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City Harvest Church trial: Prosecutors appeal to reinstate harsher sentences

The saga has gone on for years, and it seems like it’s coming to an end, but wait — the City Harvest Church leaders are not getting off yet. Public prosecutors are appealing to the High Court’s decision of reduced charges to reinstate their original sentences, Channel NewsAsia reported.

The six leaders, who were found guilty in 2015 for misappropriating $50 million in church funds (a record amount in Singapore’s history), were originally sentenced to between 21 months and eight years in jail under section 409 of the Penal Code — the most aggravated form of criminal breach of trust.

All six members appealed against their sentences, and on April 7, the High Court handed out a reduced charge under section 406, the least aggravated form of criminal breach of trust. The convicts had their prison sentences dramatically reduced — church founder and senior pastor Kong Hee got three years and six months in jail instead of the original eight years.

However, public prosecutors are looking to reinstate their original sentences under section 409, with the centre of the dispute being the use of the word “agent”. The court had found that Kong and his fellow convicts did not act as “professional agents” — defined as “ones who professed to offer their agency services to the community at large… for profit.”

Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair had earlier slammed the High Court’s decision, calling it an “absurd” and “incorrect” interpretation of the law, as high-ranking officers who are in a position to misappropriate large amounts of money are less subject to harsher punishment than lower-ranking employees.

Lawyers of Kong and five others had jointly argued that any gap in the law should be filled in Parliament, and that the court was not the place to reword and change the law.

“They’re (the prosecution) saying it’s awful, it’s terrible that directors don’t get caught under section 409. The High Court agreed… the difference is they took the view that the gap has to be filled… by legislation,” Senior Counsel N Sreenivasan said, taking the view that the gap was a policy issue that was irrelevant in the proceedings.

On Tuesday morning, the public gallery was full — with all 55 tickets snapped up by 7am, according to Channel NewsAsia — indicating the high public interest in the ongoing trial. Shortly before 10am, Pastor Kong Hee was led into the Court of Appeal, handcuffed and dressed in a purple prison uniform. He was followed by former deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, former secretary of City Harvest Church’s management board John Lam, and former finance managers Sharon Tan Shao Yuen and Serina Wee. Former fund manager Chew Eng Han arrived at 9:45am, as he is representing himself. The apex court said it would deliver its judgement “in due course”, but did not specify when.

Looks like this case still has a ways to go.