Singapore megachurch leaders convicted in pop music fraud case

Six leaders of City Harvest Church have been convicted of diverting nearly US$37 million (Dh136m) in funds to advance the career of the pastor's wife, Ho Yeow Sun.
City Harvest Church pastor Kong Hee, centre, and his wife Ho Yeow Sun, left, outside the state court in Singapore, 21 October 2015. The founder of City Harvest Church, Kong Hee has been found guilty of embezzling church funds, along with five other leaders of the church. Wallace Woon/EPA
City Harvest Church pastor Kong Hee, centre, and his wife Ho Yeow Sun, left, outside the state court in Singapore, 21 October 2015. The founder of City Harvest Church, Kong Hee has been found guilty of embezzling church funds, along with five other leaders of the church. Wallace Woon/EPA

SINGAPORE // The co-founder of a Singapore church and five other leaders were convicted of multi-million dollar fraud on Wednesday for diverting money to support his wife’s pop singing career, a rare fall from grace in the tightly regulated city-state.

The mix of money, faith and scandal in the case has fascinated the public in affluent Singapore, where such cases are rare under a system with little tolerance for corruption.

Senior pastor Kong Hee heads City Harvest Church, one of a growing number of megachurches in Singapore.

Kong was arrested and charged in 2012 with criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts.

The six church officials were convicted of diverting nearly US$37 million (Dh136m) in funds to advance the career of Kong’s wife, Ho Yeow Sun.

“There is no doubt that they had something to hide ... They knew they were acting dishonestly,” judge See Kee Oon said in convicting the six in the Singapore subordinate court.

Ho has focused on the Mandarin pop market and has released albums through Warner Music Taiwan.

Ho, the co-founder and executive director of the church, was not charged in the case.

The church, which had around 17,000 members last year, has stuck by its leader. Ho issued a message of support after the court ruling.

“Thank you for your unwavering faithfulness in loving God and loving one another. More than ever before, let’s have a unity that is unbreakable,” she said on the church website.

* Reuters

Published: October 21, 2015 04:00 AM

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