Former CHC leader Chew Eng Han nabbed at sea trying to flee Singapore
Ex-City Harvest Church fund manager was allegedly heading to Malaysia by boat
Former City Harvest Church (CHC) fund manager Chew Eng Han was caught trying to flee Singapore by boat yesterday, just a day before he was due to serve his jail sentence of three years and four months.
The 57-year-old, who was convicted of criminal breach of trust for misusing CHC funds, was stopped by the Police Coast Guard (PCG) at 8.47am in the waters off Pulau Ubin - about 2.4km from the island's jetty.
The PCG commander, Senior Assistant Commissioner (SAC) Hsu Sin Yun, said Chew was trying to leave Singapore illegally in a "motorised sampan" piloted by Tan Poh Teck, 53, who was also arrested.
It is believed that Chew had made his way to Ubin, between the Singapore mainland and Malaysia, and boarded the sampan from the island's jetty.
Preliminary investigations indicated that they were heading to Malaysia.
When he was caught, Chew had $5,000 in various denominations and fishing equipment, including a rod, reel, hooks and tackles.
For "attempting to leave Singapore unlawfully at Unauthorised Point of Departure", the duo face a fine of up to $2,000 or jail of up to six months, or both, under Chapter 133 of the Immigration Act.
SAC Hsu said at a press conference that the PCG deployed three vessels to intercept the sampan after receiving information about Chew's escape plans.
The New Paper understands that when approached, Chew and Tan, who were dressed casually, claimed they were fishing.
But based on the information received, the police established that they were planning to enter Malaysia illegally from Pulau Ubin.
The two men, who did not resist arrest, were also not doing anything on the boat to suggest that they had been fishing.
It is not known if they knew each other before Chew's attempt to flee Singapore.
Chew and Tan, who are being held in the police lock-up at the Police Cantonment Complex, will be charged in court today.
At about 3.40pm yesterday, the police also arrested Chew Eng Soon, 61, for abetting the offence. Believed to be Chew's brother, he is also being held at the Cantonment Complex.
Those convicted of abetting an offence can be fined up to $6,000 and jailed up to two years.
Chew was one of six CHC leaders convicted in 2015 of misappropriating $50 million of church funds in the largest case of misuse of charitable funds in Singapore's history.
CHC founder Kong Hee and four other leaders began serving their sentences last April, but Chew had been on bail after seeking deferments. (See report below.)
Lawyer Rajan Supramaniam from Hilborne Law told The New Paper that Chew is likely to start serving the jail sentence for his previous offence today, but could face "more penalties for jumping bail".
As for the older Chew sibling, Mr Supramaniam said his arrest for abetting likely means that he was privy to Chew's plans to flee.
"It could mean that he had knowledge of the escape and helped facilitate it, which is a criminal offence," he added.
Chew, who is married with two children, aged 27 and 17, was extended bail of $1 million after his conviction in 2015.
When someone jumps bail, the bail money is usually forfeited unless the bailor can convince the court otherwise.
When The Straits Times approached Chew's wife at their condominium home in Upper East Coast yesterday, she said that she didn't know what had happened, and that the police had yet to contact her.
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About the case
In Nov 2015, former City Harvest Church (CHC) fund manager Chew Eng Han, 57, and five other church leaders were found guilty of misappropriating $24 million in the church's building funds through sham bond investments .
Chew, with CHC founder Kong Hee, 52, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 44, former finance manager Serina Wee, 40, former finance committee member John Lam, 49, and former finance manager Sharon Tan, 41, then misused a further $26 million to cover up the initial crime.
They did this to fund the pop career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, in a church mission - the Crossover Project.
Earlier this month, the Court of Appeal rejected the prosecution's bid to reinstate the longer jail terms of the six leaders, after the High Court had earlier slashed them to between seven months and 31/2 years, down from the initial 21 months to eight years.
The other five have begun their sentences but Chew was on bail after seeking multiple deferments. After the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the lighter sentences, Chew asked to defer his sentence again to spend Chinese New Year with his family.