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.

  • Obama\'s \'Translator\' Steals Show
    Obama\'s \'Translator\' Steals Show

    Don't make Luther mad! …

  • 'Furious 7' holds on to box office; 'Age of Ultron' looms
    'Furious 7' holds on to box office; 'Age of Ultron' looms

    NEW YORK (AP) — "Furious 7" enjoyed a victory lap over the weekend, becoming only the third film ever to make $1 billion internationally and leading the domestic box office for the fourth straight week. But the movie that's poised to topple the Universal juggernaut, Marvel's "The Avengers: Age of Ultron," revved up overseas with a massive $201.2 million debut. …

  • Salma Hayek visits Lebanon to launch film 'The Prophet'
    Salma Hayek visits Lebanon to launch film 'The Prophet'

    BCHARRE, Lebanon (AP) — Salma Hayek is in Lebanon, her first visit to her ancestral homeland, to launch "The Prophet," an animated feature film she co-produced. …

  • Kim Visits Bruce Jenner
    Kim Visits Bruce Jenner

    Kim Kardashian continues to support her stepdad, Bruce Jenner, after the Olympian revealed he is transitioning to a woman. The 34-year-old reality star was photographed pulling up at Bruce's Malibu, Calif., house in her Rolls Royce Phantom on Saturday. During his two-hour interview special with Diane Sawyer (which aired Friday night), the former athlete revealed that Kim was the first one of his children he told about his gender transition, and said she has been the most understanding of his …

  • Film to probe Newark schoolyard murders' toll on family
    Film to probe Newark schoolyard murders' toll on family

    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — For what seemed a small eternity, Shalga Hightower epitomized the picture of parental grief in the aftermath of Newark's 2007 schoolyard killings, when a group of men and boys, including one who turned 15 that day, lined up her college-bound daughter and two friends and shot them each in the back of the head. …

  • Wiz Khalifa's tribute to Furious 7's Walker keeps UK chart top spot
    Wiz Khalifa's tribute to Furious 7's Walker keeps UK chart top spot

    American rapper Wiz Khalifa's tribute to actor Paul Walker, "See You Again", kept the top spot in Britain's music charts for a second week, the Official Charts Company said on Sunday, saying it had also broken the country's all-time streaming record. The song, featuring Charlie Puth, is on the sound track to the movie "Furious 7", and pays tribute to cast member Walker who died during filming in November 2013. A remix of OMI's 2012 reggae song "Cheerleader" held firm at number two, while …

  • Box Office: 'Furious 7' Races Past 'Age of Adaline'
    Box Office: 'Furious 7' Races Past 'Age of Adaline'

    By Brent Lang LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Nothing, it seems, and certainly not Blake Lively, can get "Furious 7" to slam on the brakes. The mega-grossing sequel took the top spot at the weekend box office with $18.2 million, becoming the first film to come in first for four consecutive weekends since "The Hunger Games" in March of 2012. …

  • Charlie White Weds!
    Charlie White Weds!

    Charlie White has tied the knot! …

  • 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. …