City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee was released on August 22, one day before his 55th birthday. Kong is known for being the founder of the Singaporean megachurch that figured in a $50 million case of fund misappropriation. He spent two years and four months in prison, which was a reduced term from his initial eight-year sentence.
Who is Kong Hee?
Kong Hee was convicted in 2015 of Criminal Breach of Trust in court and served his sentence at Changi Prison until this week in August 2019. The 54-year-old is married to failed pop star Sun Ho. He has one child with her.
The son of an engineer and a diamond trader, he was heavily involved in ministries and churches throughout his life. He had been involved in churches in South Korea, Indonesia, and the Philippines. He was instrumental in setting up and running a church in the Philippines, and had moved back to Singapore in 1989 to set up his own church at the behest of several pastors.
What are Kong Hee’s crimes and controversies?
Even before his problems with the misuse of church funds, Kong Hee had already gotten in trouble with a plagiarism claim. A reader of his previously-popular daily devotionals that were published online noticed that the content of his writings were quite similar to a book called “The Leadership Bible” which was published in hard copy many years ago.
After pressure from various sources, Kong and other people within the church along with his legal counsel had to admit that some of the text used in his writing did not get proper attribution to their source. They have since amended the published works with the proper credit.
Kong Hee City Harvest Church Founder million-dollar case
But what put City Harvest Church and Kong Hee on the map was the $50 million that was involved in a huge misappropriation case. According to court records, Kong and five other accomplices had misused $24 million in various schemes, which included funding Kong’s wife in her bid to become a pop star and to continue a lavish lifestyle.
A further $26 million was then used to conceal the fact that the initial amount was used, and to fool lawyers and auditors into thinking that one of the money was misused. In the end, the six accused in the case were found guilty but all had reduced sentences in one of the costliest finance court cases in the history of Singapore, with lawyers’ fees for the defendants going up to $10 million.
What happened to the other accused?
Five of the accused including Kong have since be released thanks to their reduced prison sentences. One last convicted criminal in the case, Chew Eng Han, had his sentence extended for thirteen months because he was caught trying to escape jail time. He had tried to board a jetty and escape to Malaysia after committing illegal acts the day before he was set to go to jail. He will be the last to be released from prison sentence for this crime.
The other accused in the case are Tan Ye Peng, 46; former finance managers Serina Wee, 42, and Sharon Tan, 43; former fund manager Chew Eng Han, 58, and former finance committee member John Lam, 51.
According to Channel News Asia, Kong is looking forward to spending time with his family and was fetched outside Changi prison by a black vehicle. He did not speak to the press.