Singapore (dpa) – The charismatic leader of a Singaporean megachurch was jailed for 8 years Friday after being found guilty of misusing church funds, some of which were squandered on the pop music career of his wife.
Kong Hee, founder of the City Harvest Church, received the heaviest sentence of the six people convicted last month.
Deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, former finance managers Serina Wee and Sharon Tan and former finance committee member John Lam received sentences ranging between 6 years and 21 months’ imprisonment.
A judge ruled last month that all six had been “inextricably tangled” in using 24 million Singapore dollars (17 million US dollars) from the church Building Fund to buy sham bond investments, then further misusing 26 million Singapore dollars to cover up the initial amount.
The money for the sham investments was used for the pop music career of Kong’s wife Ho Yeow Sun, also known as Sun Ho.
During the trial Kong said that Ho’s music career was a key part of the City Harvest Church’s Crossover Project, which uses her secular music to evangelize and bring people to the church.
Ho has worked with well-known hip-hop artists such as Wyclef Jean and achieved some measure of success in the dance club charts, but critics say her music and raunchy videos have little to do with Christianity.
Singapore daily The Straits Times reported Kong’s lawyer saying in court on Friday that none of the church leaders had misused the funds for personal benefit, and that the high-profile 5-year court case had taken a toll on his client.
A letter signed by 173 of the church’s executive members was also submitted to the court, affirming the members’ belief in all six church leaders and pleading with the court to spare them from jail terms “for the sake of their young children.”