Saturday 18 November 2017

It's a 'rap' for Singapore church in $36m fraud

Kong Hee
Kong Hee

Philip Sherwell

Six leaders of a Singaporean "mega-church" have been convicted of a $36million fraud after diverting donations into a failed project to turn a pastor's wife into a global rap music star.

Kong Hee, the founder and chief pastor of the City Harvest Church, and five aides failed to persuade the judge that the scheme was a legitimate use of church funds to spread God's word by helping his wife Ho crack the US music market.

The racy details of the two-year trial captivated the city state, which is famously law-abiding and where corruption is rare.

Kong and five aides were convicted of stealing $17m by using fake bond investments to mask the spending on Ms Ho's career.

The court also found that they used a further $18.5m to try to hide the first fraud from auditors.

Kong and his wife founded the church in 1989 and by last year it had grown into one of Singapore's largest, with a congregation of 14,500.

Devotees have backed his defence and Ms Ho thanked followers for their support in a Facebook post.

"Pastor Kong and I are humbled by the tremendous outpouring of support shown to us," it read.

Ms Ho, who has released five Mandarin language albums in Taiwan, moved to Los Angeles in 2009, but the scandal ended her ambitions.

The date for sentencing has not been set, but the offences carry long jail terms in a country that cracks down hard on financial crime.

For criminal breach of trust, the maximum sentence is life imprisonment, while for falsifying accounts, the penalty is a maximum of 10 years in jail. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

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