A five-judge Court of Appeal will on 1 August 2017 hear the criminal reference case over the long-running saga of financial fraud committed by City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders, according to media reports.
A Supreme Court spokesperson, responding to media queries, said the panel would comprise Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash, and Justices Belinda Ang, Quentin Loh and Chua Lee Ming.
The AGC filed a Criminal Reference in April to refer certain questions of law regarding the church leaders’ sentences to Singapore’s highest court. Of particular interest is the issue of whether a director or a member of the governing body of a company or organisation who is entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, is considered an “agent” under section 409 of the Penal Code.
Earlier, on 7 April 2017, the High Court had significantly reduced the sentences of CHC senior pastor Kong Hee, Deputy Senior Pastor Tan Ye Peng, former board member John Lam, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, former finance manager Serina Wee and Wee’s successor, former finance manager Sharon Tan.
Both prosecution and defence had appealed against their original sentences, ranging from one year and six months to eight years, which were handed out in November 2015. The leaders were convicted of varying charges of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and falsifying of accounts after they were accused of misappropriating $50 million in church funds to support the music career of Kong’s wife, Sun Ho, in a church mission known as the Crossover Project.
In its judgment, the High Court reduced the CHC leaders’ CBT charges from section 409 to section 406 of the Penal Code. In a split decision, the Court ruled that the defendants as directors did not fall as “agents” under the aggravated CBT offences under section 409, which are more serious offences providing for higher maximum penalties, the majority view decided.
Five of the six sentenced CHC leaders began serving their jail terms on 21 April. Chew Eng Han was granted a deferment after indicating that he wanted to file a criminal reference for his case.
The Court of Appeal is usually made up of three judges. However, if necessary, the panel may comprise five or more judges.