Singapore

City Harvest Church leaders back in court today for hearing

City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee and five other former church leaders are due to appear in court today for a five-judge Court of Appeal to hear the case's criminal reference.

It will be the first time in over three months that Kong and four of the five others will be seen publicly, after they began serving their jail terms on April 21.

The criminal reference is fixed for hearing at 10am before Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash, and Justices Belinda Ang, Quentin Loh and Chua Lee Ming.

Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair will be presenting the prosecution's case.

On April 7, the six CHC leaders had their jail terms slashed for criminal breach of trust (CBT) following a split decision by the High Court.

They were cleared of the more serious form of CBT as agents under Section 409 of the Penal Code and found guilty of simple CBT under Section 406.

Their initial jail terms of between 21 months and eight years were reduced to between seven months and 3½ years.

The prosecution filed a criminal reference to seek a definitive ruling on questions of law of public interest, as well as to ask the apex court to reinstate the original convictions.

In particular, it is asking whether a director or member of an organisation's governing body entrusted with property, or dominion over property, constitutes an "agent".

Former fund manager Chew Eng Han, who is representing himself, was allowed to suspend his sentence to apply for permission to file his own criminal reference. He is currently out on bail.

A criminal reference is a rare legal procedure that has been filed only 21 times from 2007 to last year.

A CHC spokesman said the "church has been praying for Pastor Kong and the others in the months, weeks and days leading up to (today)" and that it will continue to do so. - THE STRAITS TIMES

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