All 6 City Harvest leaders to appeal conviction, sentence
BY LIM YI HAN AND NG HUIWEN
ALL six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders sentenced to jail for misusing church funds have told the courts that they will appeal both the guilty verdicts and punishments.
Nearly all agreed that the prosecution's decision to push for longer sentences played a part in their decision to appeal.
First to show up at the State Courts yesterday afternoon was CHC founder Kong Hee. Then, the rest of those found guilty of misusing $50 million of the church's money arrived, one by one.
The 51-year-old Kong, who received the heaviest sentence of eight years on Nov 20, declined to speak to reporters after arriving alone at 2pm. Judge See Kee Oon painted him as the mastermind of the scheme to misuse church money to fund the pop career of his wife Ho Yeow Sun and then cover this up.
He was the only one whose bail was increased - by $500,000 to $1.5 million - as he indicated that he will be travelling overseas. The rest are on bail ranging from $750,000 to $1 million.
Former CHC finance committee member John Lam, who was sentenced to three years in jail after the lengthy 142-day trial, arrived shortly after Kong. The 47-year-old said the prosecution's decision to push for higher sentences helped sway him towards making his appeal.
On Friday, the prosecution described the sentences as "manifestly inadequate". During the trial, it called for a deterrent sentence - highlighting the huge sums of money involved and the fact that it involved a registered charity.
Former finance manager Sharon Tan's lawyer, Paul Seah, also said that the prosecution's appeal was one of the reasons for the 40-year-old to contest the judgment and her 21-month jail term, the shortest of the six.
Deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 43, who was given a 51/2-year prison term, added that the prosecution's appeal was "one of the considerations" in his decision to appeal.
Former finance manager Serina Wee was the last to arrive at about 2.20pm. When asked for her thoughts, Wee, 38, who faces a five-year jail term, said: "We're just here to process the appeals."
Chew Eng Han, the 55-year-old former church board member who was given six years in prison by the judge, told the media: "I decided to appeal since the day of the verdict and nothing has changed."
Each of them had been set to start their jail terms on Jan 11. Now, the court will serve the record of proceedings to the parties on Jan 4.
Within two weeks of that date, the six guilty parties will have to file a petition of appeal at the State Courts. The High Court will then inform parties of the hearing dates of the appeal. If any fail to file the petition by Jan 18, their appeal will be withdrawn and the court will enforce its sentence.