City Harvest Church (CHC) founder and senior pastor Kong Hee and five other church leaders filed notices of appeal at the State Courts on Wednesday (Dec 2). All six - Kong, 51; former board member Chew Eng Han, 55; deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 42; former finance managers Serina Wee, 38, and Sharon Tan, 40; and former finance committee member John Lam, 47 - are appealing against both their conviction and sentence.
On Nov 20, the six were given jail sentences ranging from eight years to 21 months, after they were found of misappropriating $35 million of the church's donations to support the singing career of Kong Hee's wife, Sun Ho.
Nearly 175 of CHC's executive members had signed a letter petitioning the judge for leniency:
Although the court has ruled that monies from the church and its building fund have been misappropriated, which many of us have given to over the years, we have no wish to see any one of them go through a jail term. And while we, as individuals on our own have much to reflect upon and are coming to our own conclusions based on the trial and findings, we do find common ground in one matter--not one of us want any of the six to go to jail for what they did.
In this whole matter, we believe they wanted to fulfill the Crossover mission and in their zeal, they overstepped certain boundaries.
We sincerely ask for leniency on their sentencing. For the sake of their young children, we appeal for them to be spared jail terms.
Last Friday, the prosecution filed an appeal against the sentences for the six convicted leaders, noting that they were "manifestly inadequate". The prosecution had earlier asked for much harsher sentences ranging from five to 12 years.
All six are now out on bail. The bail amount for each remains the same, except for Kong. His bail amount will go up by $500,000 to $1.5 million, as he will be travelling.