On 26 June it was reported that Kong Hee, founder and pastor of Singapore’s City Harvest Church, had been arrested along with four others for allegedly misusing church funds. The five accused appeared in court on Wednesday, 27 June, to face charges.
Original accusations from a two-year investigation indicated that over $24 million in funds had been siphoned from church funds and used to finance the music career of Hee’s wife, Ho Yeow Sun, whose most well-known song, “China Wine,” boasts a decidedly sensual and inappropriate music video.
Wednesday’s court appearance revealed, however, that an additional $26.6 million was misappropriated. The Straits Times reports further details:
The prosecution said: ‘These further monies were circulated… to create the false appearance that the purported sham bond investments had been redeemed, when in fact the ‘redemption’ had been financed using these further monies misappropriated from church funds.’
This ’round-tripping’ meant that more of City Harvest’s building fund cash was used to repay the sums owed to itself.
The total sum of $50.6 million that the five conspired to cheat the church of makes the City Harvest case the biggest financial scandal involving a registered charity.1
The Straits Times also reports that City Harvest Church is in support of its pastor:
Mr Aries Zulkarnain [executive pastor] said in a statement on Thursday evening that the church stands by the five, which includes founding pastor Kong Hee, 47.
He added that Kong, who faces three charges of criminal breach of trust as an agent, and deputy pastor Tan Ye Peng, 39, who faces similar charges, will continue to preach at the church.2
The five accused are scheduled to appear in court on July 25. If found guilty, megachurch pastor Kong Hee could face life imprisonment.