Proceedings to remove convicted CHC leaders from key positions to resume
Convicted City Harvest Church leaders face removal from positions but it will not have big impact on transition
Proceedings to remove the six convicted City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders from their key positions will resume after they are sentenced.
The proceedings were deferred in August 2013 until the end of the trial.
Two CHC executive members, Mr Kelvin Teo Meng How and Ms Jacqueline Tan Su Pheng, also face removal from their positions.
The Office of the Commissioner of Charities (COC) said that under Section 27 of the Charities Act, those convicted of offences involving dishonesty or deception are automatically disqualified from being a governing board member, key officer or trustee.
But stripping the key leaders of their managerial positions will not have a huge impact on the church, said Charity Council chairman Gerard Ee yesterday.
He said: "I think you must separate the two - the role of management and the role of church preaching what they believe in.
"As long as there are people who subscribe to their brand of Christianity and what they are preaching, as a church they will survive."
On Wednesday, CHC founder and senior pastor Kong Hee (right, with wife Ho Yeow Sun), 51, and former finance committee member John Lam, 47, were each found guilty of three charges of criminal breach of trust.
Deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 42, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, 55, and former finance manager Serina Wee, 38, were each convicted of six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsifying accounts.
Another former finance manager, Sharon Tan, 40, was found guilty of three charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsifying accounts.
CHC seems to have smooth leadership renewal in place, with Kong hinting at a "new generation leadership team" and a "CHC 2.0" in an earlier Facebook post about his wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, being ordained.
Ms Ho remains a CHC board member after a suspension order against her was discharged due to "insufficient evidence against her".
The New Paper understands that CHC is the first church to face proceedings to have its key leaders stripped of their executive positions, but Mr Ee said that it is in line with practices in other companies or organisations.
"I think you must take it in context. For someone to be on board for any charity or organisation, usually the individuals have to declare they have not been charged or if they are an undischarged bankrupt. It's very normal," he said.
The idea is to maintain public trust and confidence in charitable institutions, he added.
"You want to make sure that whoever holds office with decision-making capacity is not tainted by a criminal record," he said.
KONG HEE: I HAVE NO FEAR
In a Facebook post yesterday, Kong Hee shared his reaction to the verdict.
"By now, you would have heard that the judge has rendered his decision in the long-running trial. This is a difficult time for me, and especially for my family, just as it is for the other co-accused persons...
"My family and I are continually assured and strengthened by the love and support shown to us during this entire time. We thank you for your prayers and encouragement, as they mean a lot to us.
"The days and steps ahead are challenging, but with God's grace and love, I have no fear," he wrote.
The National Council of Churches of Singapore also weighed in on the verdict.
It said: "It is our hope and prayer that good will come out of this whole episode, especially as a reminder to pay greater attention on church governance in the matter of management of funds."
This is a difficult time for me, and especially for my family, just as it is for the other co-accused persons...
My family and I are continually assured and strengthened by the love and support shown to us during this entire time. We thank you for your prayers and encouragement, as they mean a lot to us.
- Kong Hee, in a Facebook post, yesterday
You want to make sure that whoever holds office with decision-making capacity is not tainted by a criminal record.
- Charity Council chairman Gerard Ee
How the removal came about
2010: A tip-off alleging the misuse of City Harvest Church's (CHC) funds sparked a probe by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and the Commissioner of Charities (COC).
CHC, which became a registered charity in 1993, had $72 million in income and expenses of about $48 million in 2009.
2012: COC's inquiry revealed misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the church, particularly the building fund, which had been raised and earmarked for building-related matters or investment for financial returns.
Financial irregularities of at least $23 million from CHC's funds were discovered. The money was found to have been used to finance the Crossover Project, which aims to use CHC co-founder Ho Yeow Sun's secular music to evangelise.
There was a concerted effort to conceal this movement of funds from its stakeholders, the Office of the COC noted.
Eight church leaders were suspended from their executive positions in CHC, including the six who were charged and convicted.
2013: The COC agreed to requests to defer proceedings to remove the eight church leaders until after the trial as steps had been taken to safeguard the property of CHC.
2015: Removal proceedings will resume after the sentence has been passed, said the Office of the COC. The COC will consider fully and fairly all representations received before making a decision.
The consent of the Attorney-General is required before a removal order can be made by the COC.