Singapore pastor charged in $19 million fraud case

The founder of one of Singapore's richest churches was charged in court Wednesday for allegedly syphoning off nearly $19 million of the congregation's money to support his wife's singing career.

Pastor Kong Hee, 47, faced three charges of "criminal breach of trust" relating to the misuse of the funds of the City Harvest Church, one of Singapore's biggest with a membership of over 30,000.

Kong was accused of "dishonestly misappropriating monies" from the church's building fund over several years to support the career of his wife Ho Yeow Sun, who had tried to become a music star in the United States.

The church, which has affiliates in neighbouring Malaysia and other countries, is known for services that resemble pop concerts.

The pastor's wife, now in her early 40s, was hoping international stardom would help spread the church's message, according to previous reports in the Singapore media.

Four other church executives were charged Wednesday before a district court for aiding Kong and faced other charges for allegedly attempting to misappropriate millions of dollars from the church's funds.

Kong and the four others were arrested Tuesday by the Commercial Affairs Department, a police unit set up to fight financial crime, and could face life imprisonment as well as a fine if convicted.

They have been suspended from their church positions and are out on bail of Sg$500,000 each, with their passports impounded.

On Tuesday, officials overseeing charities estimated that Kong was involved in misappropriating Sg$23 million ($18 million) in church funds but in the charge sheet filed on Wednesday, the total was raised to Sg$24 million.

According to court documents, the church funds were channelled through "purported bond investments" in two companies, which were in fact "sham transactions".

"They were devised by the accused persons in order to conceal the diversion of the Church's Building Fund to fund Sun Ho's music career... As well as other unauthorised purposes," the documents said.

City Harvest is a Christian group listed as a charity. The arrests came after a two-year police investigation.

Kong, who appeared in a courtroom filled with supporters as well as local media, stood with a grave expression as charges were laid out against him.

After the session, Kong walked out holding hands with his wife, declining to speak to the media as members of his entourage shoved journalists away and tried to prevent photographers from shooting pictures.

The couple became minor celebrities in Singapore after launching the church, which officials estimated had net assets of Sg$103 million in 2009.

Singapore authorities have cracked down on heads of charities found to have been involved in irregularities.

In 2009, a prominent Buddhist monk was jailed for six months for misappropriating hospital funds and lying about it to authorities.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Timberlake offers positive words at iHeartRadio Music Awards
    Timberlake offers positive words at iHeartRadio Music Awards

    Mr. SexyBack said he wasn't always one of the cool kids. …

  • 'Fresh Prince' Mini-Reunion
    'Fresh Prince' Mini-Reunion

    It was a "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" reunion for Will Smith and Tatyana Ali at the Black Girls Rock! show on Saturday night in Newark, N.J. …

  • Songwriter injured in California crash; motorcyclist killed

    SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) — A singer-songwriter behind the 1969 rock hit "Spirit in the Sky" has been critically injured in a Northern California car accident that killed a motorcyclist. …

  • Carrie Underwood Debuts Baby Pic
    Carrie Underwood Debuts Baby Pic

    Carrie Underwood's son is only one month old, but she's already gearing up for him to lace up his skates! "The Predators are in the playoffs! Just waiting to get called up! #PutMeInCoach," Carrie captioned the pic. Carrie Underwood shared the first photo of her son, Isaiah Michael Fisher, on March 29, 2015. …

  • Destiny's Child reunites at Stellar Gospel Awards
    Destiny's Child reunites at Stellar Gospel Awards

    LAS VEGAS (AP) — A reunited Destiny's Child took the stage at the Stellar Gospel Music Awards on Saturday as singer Erica Campbell took home six awards, including the night's top honor. …

  • DreamWorks' 'Home' bests 'Get Hard' at box office with $54M
    DreamWorks' 'Home' bests 'Get Hard' at box office with $54M

    NEW YORK (AP) — Business was brisk at the weekend box-office, where the DreamWorks animated alien adventure "Home" beat out the Will Ferrell-Kevin Hart comedy "Get Hard" with a resounding debut of $54 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. …

  • Michelle Obama declares 'Black Girls Rock!'
    Michelle Obama declares 'Black Girls Rock!'

    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated the beauty, power and tenacity of black women while spreading her own message of education for girls at Black Girls Rock!, an annual event honoring trailblazing women of color from all walks of life. …

  • Liam Cunningham Talks 'Thrones'
    Liam Cunningham Talks 'Thrones'

    Every year "Game of Thrones" gets bigger and Season 5 is no exception, according to the man who plays The Onion Knight, actor Liam Cunningham. "It's gonna be a monster and it is world's colliding," Liam, who plays King Stannis Baratheon's right hand man, Davos Seaworth/The Onion Knight, told Access Hollywood earlier this week at the show's San Francisco premiere. I mean, ours already did at the end of [Season] 4 with getting up to Castle Black and bumping into Jon Snow and all that… but, at …

  • Beyonce's unretouched L'Oreal photos only latest in her long history of Photoshop controvers …

    Beyonce's unretouched L'Oreal photos only latest in her long history of Photoshop controvers …

    Celebrity News - Fri, Feb 20, 2015 1:47 AM PHT
    Beyonce's unretouched L'Oreal photos only latest in her long history of Photoshop controvers …

    Beyonce’s #Flawless image is embroiled in controversy once again. On Wednesday, a web site called The Beyonce World leaked 224 allegedly raw photos of the musician. The images showed Bey in full makeup for the 2013 L’Oreal ad campaign — but with the kinds of “imperfections” we all have — beauty marks, bumps, creases. In the wake of Cindy Crawford’s unretouched photos, the images have been praised by critics of a beauty industry that sets impossibly high standards, standards that Queen Bey …

  • Taylor Swift reveals ‘Style’ video

    Taylor Swift reveals ‘Style’ video

    omg - Sat, Feb 14, 2015 12:14 AM PHT
    Taylor Swift reveals ‘Style’ video

    The 25-year-old released the video for her third cut from platinum selling album 1989. …

  • My mother-in-law’s personal encounter with the pope

    My mother-in-law’s personal encounter with the pope

    Write Away - Wed, Jan 28, 2015 2:29 PM PHT
    My mother-in-law’s personal encounter with the pope

    For my mother-in-law Mrs. Elsa Yrastorza Yuzon, flying and soaring in the skies is part of her normal routine. But it reached new heights when Pope Francis boarded Shepherd One. …