SINGAPORE: The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) is considering whether it is possible to take further steps in the City Harvest case and once they decide, they will announce next week, Law Minister K Shanmugam said on Saturday (Apr 8). "The matter is not over yet," he said.
Speaking to the media a day after the jail terms of six City Harvest Church leaders were more or less halved following an appeal, he said the AGC believed that the sentences given out earlier at a lower court should have been higher, including the eight-year sentence for church founder Kong Hee. The six had been found guilty of misappropriating S$50 million of church funds.
Mr Shanmugam said of the AGC: “They told the Government they were appealing and they gave their reasons – and why the sentence was low. And the Government believed that the original sentences were too low as well."
He noted that the High Court disagreed with the AGC and that two judges looking at the appeal said directors are not agents and therefore submitted a lower charge of Criminal Breach of Trust, that resulted in a reduced sentence.
“Now from the Government's point of view, this legal reasoning has serious implications, including corruption cases. We will have to consider, as a matter of policy, what other steps to take because we cannot relax our stand on that ... so I have asked AGC for advice whether we need to do anything," Mr Shanmugam said.
Acknowledging that there are differing views on the judgment, he said: “Judgments can be discussed, criticised. People have the right to have their views on the judgment. But I think we should be careful about abusing the judges personally, or suggesting improper ulterior motives for judgments … And from a Government’s point of view, if we disagree then we always consider what we do. If necessary, we will legislate through Parliament.”
He said he noted the High Court’s comments on the way the case was conducted by the prosecution and has asked the new Attorney-General and Deputy Attorneys-General to look into this.
“It may take time, but we have good people at the top, and they should be able to deal with it," he said.