Six senior officials of the City Harvest megachurch in Singapore have been sentenced for their involvement in a $35 million fraud case. The founder and pastor of the evangelical church Kong Hee has been sentenced to eight years in prison. The others received anywhere between 21 months and six years.
The court ruled that the church had misused their finances to fund the music career of Sun Ho, who is the wife of Kong Hee. Everyone involved denied the charges, and the congregation of the church supported them during the trial.
According to state prosecutors, this represents the largest amount of charitable funds that have ever been inappropriately used in the legal history of Singapore.
The City Harvest Church is known for its slick image and a branch of Christianity that focuses largely on wealth. The church has about 17,500 members in Singapore, and it has branches spread throughout the world.
In 2002, Kong Hee and the church started the “Crossover Project”, which was a scheme to support Sun Ho’s music career. The plan was to use popular music to help spread the teachings of Christianity.
A religious music production company was trying to help Sun Ho achieve mainstream success in the United States. However, the company lost millions of dollars because of the failure of the project.
The six convicted individuals used about half of the $35 million to fund the project, and they used the other half in attempt to try and cover up their wrongdoings. The church leaders were found guilty of various counts of falsification of accounts and criminal breach of trust.
However, the judge acknowledged that there was no evidence of wrongful gain by the defendants. Because of this, the judge did not impose the maximum allowable sentence of 20 years.
Sun Ho was not prosecuted in the case. She has since taken over leadership of the church.