SINGAPORE: The prosecution in the City Harvest case has filed a "criminal reference" to the Court of Appeal, to clarify the law under which the High Court made its decision to cut the jail terms of all six church leaders, said the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) in a statement on Monday (Apr 10).
In a split decision, the High Court had on Friday convicted church founder and pastor Kong Hee and five others of reduced charges. That had an impact on their sentences which were more or less halved.
The six church leaders were found guilty in 2015 of misappropriating S$50 million of church funds, and originally convicted of the most aggravated form of Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) under section 409 of the Penal Code.
However, following an appeal, the High Court convicted them of a reduced charge under section 406 of the Penal Code - the least aggravated form of CBT for which the punishment is up to seven years’ jail.
"Having carefully considered the written grounds, the prosecution is of the view that there are questions of law of public interest that have arisen out of the High Court’s decision," said the AGC in its statement.
In particular, the prosecution is questioning "whether a director or a member of the governing body of a company or organisation who is entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, is so entrusted in the way of his business as an agent for the purposes of section 409 of the Penal Code."
The AGC added: "The prosecution has accordingly filed a Criminal Reference today, to refer these questions of law to the Court of Appeal.
"If the Court of Appeal answers the questions referred in accordance with the prosecution’s submissions, the prosecution intends to request that the Court of Appeal exercises its powers under section 397(5) to reinstate the appellants’ original convictions under section 409 of the Penal Code and make necessary and consequential orders in relation to the sentences given."
A day after the High Court delivered its decision, Law Minister K Shanmugam said that the AGC told the Government they were appealing. "And the Government believed that the original (State Court) sentences were too low as well," said Mr Shanmugam on Saturday.
Kong had his eight-year jail term cut to three-and-a-half years on Friday. Former fund manager Chew Eng Han's six-year sentence was lowered to three years and four months, while deputy pastor Tan Ye Peng had his original five-and-a-half-year sentence reduced to three years and two months.
Former finance manager Serina Wee Gek Yin's original five-year sentence was halved to two years and six months, and former finance committee member John Lam Leng Hung's three-year sentence was similarly halved to one year and six months.
Former finance manager Sharon Tan Shao Yuen had her 21-month jail sentence reduced to seven months.