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Singaporean in megachurch fraud guilty of trying to flee

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Singapore   /   Wed, December 12, 2018   /   05:55 pm
Singaporean in megachurch fraud guilty of trying to flee This combo picture of six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders, the founder Kong Hee (top C), Serina Wee, former finance manager (top L), Sharon Tan (top R), Tan Ye Peng (bottom L), John Lam (bottom C), and Chew Eng Han (bottom R) arrive at the district state courts in Singapore on October 21, 2015. Six religious leaders in Singapore who lavished $36 million on a failed bid to turn the pastor's glamorous wife into a global pop star were convicted October 21 of misusing church funds. (AFP/Roslan Rahman)

A Singaporean man convicted over a multi-million-dollar fraud at a glitzy megachurch was found guilty Wednesday of trying to flee by boat a day before his sentence was to start.

In a case that gripped the city-state with a mix of religion and lavish spending, six City Harvest Church leaders were convicted in 2015 of pilfering tens of millions of dollars from the Christian place of worship to promote the pop career of the pastor's wife.

Among them was investment manager Chew Eng Han, who was sentenced to three years and four months but had his imprisonment delayed by a series of appeals. 

After losing his final challenge, the 58-year-old was meant to start serving his sentence on February 22.

But a day before he was due to go to jail, police caught him in a small fishing boat off eastern Singapore attempting to flee to neighbouring Malaysia. 

Chew was hit with new charges over the escape bid, with the prosecution arguing that it was "undisputed that the accused's intention was to entirely avoid serving his sentence", according to court documents.

He pleaded not guilty and his defence team claimed that as he had not yet left Singapore when he was detained, he could not be found guilty.

However a judge rejected these arguments and convicted him of attempting to defeat the course of justice.

Chew will be sentenced in January. Three other men were jailed earlier this year for helping him in the escape bid, local media reported.

The church leaders were convicted of using Sg$24 million ($19.8 million) from a church building fund to help advance the music career of the pastor's singer wife Sun Ho, and were also found guilty of misappropriating huge sums as they covered their tracks.

The money was used to fund glitzy pop videos featuring scantily clad dancers, with the church arguing Ho's music could be used to attract more follower. The church had more than 30,000 members at its peak some years ago.

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