SINGAPORE: Former City Harvest Church leader Chew Eng Han was charged on Thursday (Feb 22) with attempting to flee the country from Pulau Ubin in a motorised sampan on Wednesday morning.
He was on bail of S$1 million and due to turn himself in on Thursday to start serving a jail term of three years and four months for his role in the misappropriation of S$50 million of church funds. It was the largest fraud involving charitable funds in Singapore’s history.
Chew, 57, was arrested at sea at 8.47am on Wednesday for leaving the country from an unauthorised point of departure “without being compelled by accident or other reasonable cause”, court documents stated. The sampan, piloted by Tan Poh Teck, was intercepted by the Police Coast Guard about 2.4km away from Pulau Ubin.
Tan, 53, was also charged on Thursday with abetting Chew’s illegal departure by taking him on his fishing boat bound for Malaysia.
The pair had claimed to be on a fishing trip when they were arrested. The coast guard, which intercepted the boat following a tip-off, said a preliminary investigation revealed the men were headed to Malaysia.
The authorities seized S$5,000 in cash and fishing equipment from the sampan.
Channel NewsAsia understands Chew had boarded the sampan at Pulau Ubin, where he had travelled from the mainland on his own.
In court on Thursday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Zhongshan said Chew’s bail should be revoked, and that a hearing should be scheduled for his bailor to show cause. Otherwise, the entire amount could be forfeited.
The prosecutor added that he has written to the Court of Appeal to request a new date for Chew to commence his sentence. A date has yet to be fixed.
A district judge ordered the remand of both men for a week to assist in investigations. They will next appear in court on Mar 1.
FAMILY FOUND OUT CHEW WAS ARRESTED FROM MEDIA
Lawyer Jonathan Phipps, who is representing Chew, said he was instructed last night by Chew’s wife, who was accompanied by nine family members in court on Thursday. Tan does not have a lawyer.
Mr Phipps said the family wants to keep a low profile and will not comment on the case. They found out Chew had been arrested on Wednesday morning from media reports.
The family is upset the police did not inform them of Chew's arrest, he said.
Chew faces one charge under the Immigration Act of leaving Singapore unlawfully at an unauthorised point of departure. If convicted, he faces up to six months’ jail and a fine of up to S$2,000.
For abetment, Tan could be jailed for six months to two years and fined up to S$6,000.
The authorities arrested Chew’s older brother Eng Soon, 61, at about 3.40pm on the same day. Chew Eng Soon had abetted his brother to flee the country, authorities allege. He has not yet been charged. Channel NewsAsia understands he is still in police custody.