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    Sep 15, 2016

    City Harvest Church leaders return to court for appeals

    THEY have filed their papers and said their prayers.

    Today, the six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders at the centre of a multi-million-dollar financial scandal will return to face the courts again.

    The marathon City Harvest trial begins again in the High Court, with both the defence and prosecution appealing.

    The appeal will continue tomorrow and for the first three days of next week.

    It will be heard by Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, and Justices Woo Bih Li and Chan Seng Onn.

    The six who have been convicted - including CHC founder Kong Hee, 52 - are arguing against their convictions and sentences.

    The prosecution is appealing for longer deterrent sentences.

    In October last year, the six were convicted of misappropriating millions in church funds to fuel the pop music career of Kong's wife, Ho Yeow Sun, in a church mission known as the Crossover Project.

    The court found that they had invested $24 million from CHC's building fund in bogus bonds from music production company Xtron and glass-maker Firna, and this money was in fact used to fund the Crossover Project.

    Another $26 million was used to cover up the initial misdeed.

    The six were handed jail terms ranging from 21 months to eight years.

    Kong, singled out as the key man behind the scandal, was given the stiffest sentence.

    Judge See Kee Oon had choice words for the charismatic pastor, who he said "acted consciously and dishonestly".

    "One does not need to be an expert in legality to appreciate certain fundamental aspects of honesty, truth and integrity," wrote Judge See in his written judgment.

    Former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han, 57, was handed a six-year term. Deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 43, was given a sentence of five and a half years.

    Former church finance manager Serina Wee, 39, was given a five-year term. Former CHC finance committee member John Lam, 48, was sentenced to three years in jail.

    Former church finance manager Sharon Tan, 40, received 21 months' jail.

    But the prosecution has described the jail terms as "manifestly inadequate", noting that the case involved the largest amount of charity funds ever misappropriated in Singapore's legal history.

    The session starting today could be the final avenue of appeal for the six church leaders.

    If their appeals fail, they can refer the case only up to the Court of Appeal with its permission - and only then if there is a point or question of law to argue.