Evangelical church leaders accused of embezzling millions to boost unpopular pop personality’s career

WEDNESDAY saw the opening in Singapore of a long-anticipated corruption trial of six evangelical church leaders accused of embezzling more than $40 million to fund the pop music career of the wife of the founder of the City Harvest Church.

According to this report, the faithful queued at a Singapore court overnight and packed the public gallery to show support for the accused who prosecutors say diverted the congregation’s funds into “sham” investments to advance the career of aspiring star Ho Yeow Sun, popularly known as Sun Ho, who was voted Singapore’s “least admired personality” in 2012.

City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee, right, and his pop singer wife Ho Yeow Sun, also known as Sun Ho, at a preliminary court hearing last year. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee, right, and his pop singer wife Ho Yeow Sun, also known as Sun Ho, at a preliminary court hearing last year. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

The church with affiliates in neighboring Malaysia and other countries is one of Singapore’s richest and biggest, with membership of more than 30,000. It is known in the region for staging large-scale, elaborate services resembling pop concerts which are conducted by Ho’s husband, Kong Hee.

Ho is not on trial but turned up in court Wednesday dressed in a black leather jacket, skinny pants, stiletto boots and sporting streaky blonde hair and grey contact lenses. Her husband chatted confidently with his lawyers. Kong is charged with conspiracy to commit criminal breach of trust.

Also charged are church pastor Tan Ye Peng, church members Chew Eng Han and Lam Leng Hung, and accountants Serina Wee Gek Yin and Sharon Tan Shao Yuen. The six, who have yet to say how they will plea, could face prison terms ranging from 10 to 20 years.

The prosecution’s opening statement ridiculed the contention of church leaders that pop music was a tool of evangelism that would help spread God’s message. It said Ho recorded and launched secular music albums to influence people:

Who would never choose to step foot into a church to listen to a preacher.

Investments by the church in two companies, Xtron Productions and Firna, were in substance fake transactions that were orchestrated by the accused who were all involved in the planning and financing of Ho’s music career, according to prosecutors.

State media reported that 24 million Singapore dollars ($19 million) was channeled through Xtron and Firna and another S$26 million was misappropriated to cover up the initial sum.

Prosecutors allege that the falsification of church accounts occurred in 2009.

Singapore’s media have painted Ho, who is in her early 40s, as an aspiring superstar who hoped for international fame to help spread her church’s influence. She collaborated on a song and raunchy music video China Wine with rapper Wyclef Jean in 2007 – you can see it here – and attended the 46th annual Grammy Awards ceremony in 2004. But accusations of impropriety and public disdain have since rained down on Ho, her ambitions and the church.

Ho was reinstated as executive director of City Harvest Church on Monday by the Commissioner of Charities after a review found she had not contributed to mismanagement of the church.

A former church accountant testified Wednesday how she had been instructed to take care of Xtron’s accounts because it didn’t have its own accounting department


9 responses to “Evangelical church leaders accused of embezzling millions to boost unpopular pop personality’s career”

  1. Trevor Blake says:

    If a mechanic is a failure, you can tell because his cars don’t work. If a chef is a failure, you can tell because his food tastes bad. How can you tell if a clergyman is a failure? Because stop asking questions.

  2. Marky Mark says:

    All about the greed…always has been

    I imagine religion began when the first Cro-Magnon Man wandered into a strange village and threw Flint shavings onto a fire causing a brief flash. The village occupants, ignorant to the properties of Flint immediately thought him a magical man and quickly idolized him. After all, this new and mysterious man could now start fires quickly in any weather, and eliminated the need to travel with hot coals when following the herds. He was accepted into their Clain, NEVER had to hunt or gather…or carry his newly accumulated belongings from place to place, and probably had the pick of the litter pertaining to sexual needs. As he was gifted with the life-blood of the ancient world, the ability to create FIRE on demand. I’m sure many of this uninformed village pertained to him as a GOD.

  3. […] Evangelical <b>church leaders</b> accused of embezzling millions to boost <b>…</b> Go to this article […]

  4. T says:

    How are these people different to American evangelist preachers who use the god racket to con people out of their money to fund extravagant lifestyles?

  5. Equality Jack says:

    I’ll admit I have no idea what is going on here beyond them embezzling money under a foreign law I have no intention of researching.
    I just don’t get it at all. Usually I can see how an article fits into this blog, but I am stumped with this one.
    Maybe I should change my name to Stumped or Clueless Jack instead.

  6. Cesar says:

    @T The main difference is that they didn’t boast about it. If they would have claim whatever they were trying to do was god’s plan, i can assure you, they would be fine and dandy throwing millions down the drain.

  7. Robster says:

    They should be charged with making christian music, a horrible crime against taste and melody. They really use this music to wear potential victims down to enable increased extractions of money to promote their nonsense. Thing is, after 1/3 of a godrock CD (or download), the listener realises just how horrible it is, how meaningless and plain stupid it is and learn quickly to shun the touters and move onto something more positive and productive like getting drunk