The founder of one of Singapore’s richest churches was charged in court yesterday for allegedly siphoning off nearly US$19 million of the congregation’s money to support his wife’s singing career.
Pastor Kong Hee (康希), 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 more than 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 (何耀珊) — also known as Sun Ho — who had tried to become a music star in the US.
The church, which has affiliates in 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, previous reports said.
Four other church executives were charged yesterday 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 on Tuesday by Singapore’s Commercial Affairs Department, a police unit set up to fight financial crime. They have been suspended from their church positions and are out on bail of S$500,000 (US$391,000) each, with their passports impounded.
On Tuesday, officials overseeing charities estimated that Kong was involved in misappropriating S$23 million in church funds, but in the charge sheet filed yesterday, the total was raised to S$24 million. Court documents said the church funds were channeled through “purported bond investments” in two companies, which were in fact “sham transactions.”
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 taking pictures.