Following the judgement by the High Court today (7th April) on the appeal of the Attorney General’ Chamber (AGC) against Pastor Kong Hee and Gangs from the City Harvest Church (CHC), many netizens are shocked by the lenient judgement in favour of the 6 former church leaders, who all had their jail sentences halved by the appeals judge.
The AGC had appealed against the sentences meted by the States Court as manifestly inadequate and wanted harsher punishments for the 6 who were convicted of varying counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and falsification of accounts.
The 6 had also appealed against both their convictions and sentences and the appeal was heard in the High Court by Judge of Appeal (JA) Chao Hick Tin, Justice Woo Bih Li and Justice Chan Seng Onn in September last year.
Massive reduction in jail sentences
The 3-judge panel finally delivered its judgement today, overall halving the 6 former leader’s jail sentences.
- Kong Hee: From 8 years to 3 years and 6 months.
- Tan Ye Peng: From 5½ years’ to 3 years and 2 months.
- Chew Eng Han: From 6 years to 3 years and 4 months.
- Serina Wee Gek Yin : From 5 years to 2½ years.
- John Lam Leng Hung: From 3 years to 1½ years.
- Sharon Tan Shao Yuen: From 21 months to 7 months.
Why the huge ‘discounts’?
Delivering its judgement, JA Chao said that the majority (split decision) decided to convict them on a lesser CBT charge instead of the original aggravated CBT.
For those who were originally convicted for aggravated CBT under Section 409 Cap. 224 of the Penal Code, the majority decided that a simple CBT under Section 406 Cap.224 would be more appropriate.
- Section 409 Cap. 224 refers to CBT by public servant, or by banker, merchant, or agent and carries a maximum imprisonment term of up to life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 20 years, and shall also be liable to fine. [ LINK ]
- Section 406 Cap. 224 refers a simple CBT which carries a maximum imprisonment term of up to 7 years, or with fine, or with both. [ LINK ]
To convict a person under Section 409 Cap. 224, the accused must be a public servant, banker, merchant, factor, broker, attorney or an agent when committing the crime, an element which the prosecution failed to prove.
In the case of Kong Hee and his Gang, the majority held that:
While a director undoubtedly holds an important position in a company or organisation, it cannot be said that a person by becoming a director has offered his services as an agent to the community at large or that he makes his living as an agent.
What this means is that Kong Hee and Gangs were not “professional agents” entrusted with CHC’s funds and therefore the aggravated CBT charges were inappropriate. “Professional agents” refers to persons who render services to the community at large (externally to CHC) and from which they make a living.
They were therefore convicted for simple CBT, which carries a significantly lower jail sentences, thus the huge trimming of their original sentences.
Both the prosecution and defense may apply for leave to appeal to the Apex Court if they have a point of law in contention.
Meanwhile, Kong Hee and his Gang have all their sentences deferred to enable them to “spend time with family” and attend to the necessary.
Kong, Lam, Chew, Wee and Tan Ye will serve their sentences in two weeks so they can still celebrate Easter day with their families.
Sharon Tan, will serve her sentence in 2 months time because her family is moving to the United States and she wants to be able to help her child adjust to the new environment.
Whopping $10 million for legal fees?
With the Kong Hee (Fatt Choy – for lawyers indeed) trial finally over, many netizens are wondering just how much money was wasted on this trial of the century?
According to an insider close to the sources, it is estimated that the total combined legal costs of the entire trial for all the 6 former CHC leaders amount to a whopping $10 million.
TRE understands that just on Kong Hee alone, the legal fees is approximately $2.5 million.
Disclaimer: TRE has no lawyer on its editorial team and the article is written to the best of the writer’s understanding of applicable laws. Please feel free to correct any factual inaccuracies or legal terms as needed.