Prosecutors on Tuesday (Sep 20) urged the High Court to uphold the convictions of six City Harvest Church leaders found guilty last year of misappropriating S$50 million of church funds to secretly bankroll the secular music career of its pastor's wife.
"The offenders wove an intricate tapestry of lies and falsehoods in the course of committing their offences and seeking to conceal them," Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong said. "With the truth having been laid bare at trial, it has become a web of deceit from which they cannot and should not be allowed to escape."
The six leaders, including pastors Kong Hee and Tan Ye Peng, have maintained that the music career of Kong's wife, Sun Ho, was "a church purpose", as Ms Ho would use her success to evangelise non-Christians.
Prosecutors contend the use of S$24 million of church funds to bankroll Ms Ho's career amounted to unauthorised use of the church's Building Fund - "a restricted fund set aside for building-related expenses or for investment to preserve its purchasing power and to maximise returns", DPP Ong told the court.
Another S$26 million of the fund was used to cover up the first amount, to "pull the wool over the eyes" of the church's auditors and "conceal the fact that Ms Ho's career was being funded by the church ... to avoid dissent from within the church", prosecutors said.
The millions were used to enter into two sham bond investments with two church-linked and church-controlled companies, said DPP Ong, adding that "these deceptions ... fatally undermine the offenders' contention that they entered into the transactions in good faith", DPP Ong said. "The bonds were not worth the paper they were written on,” he said of the sham.
The prosecution also chided defence lawyers for treating the appeal "as a re-hearing, an attempt to completely undo the findings of the trial judge", who found all six leaders guilty on all charges and sentenced them to between 21 months and eight years' jail.
The hearing continues on Tuesday afternoon.
A panel of three judges - Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justices Chan Seng Onn and Woo Bih Li - have heard the appeals of the six offenders over the past three days. Prosecutors have the whole of Tuesday to respond to the appeals, and on Wednesday are expected to argue their own appeal to raise the jail terms of the six.