SINGAPORE: At an urgent hearing on Tuesday (Feb 27) morning, the Court of Appeal ordered that former City Harvest Church leader Chew Eng Han is to start serving his jail term for the misappropriation of church funds on Mar 1, once Chew’s one-week remand period expires.
However, if a district judge orders Chew’s further remand to facilitate ongoing investigations into his attempt to flee the country, “Chew’s sentence is to commence immediately upon the expiry of such further remand,” the apex court ordered.
Chew, 57, was arrested at sea by the Police Coast Guard last Wednesday for leaving the country from Pulau Ubin jetty, an unauthorised point of departure.
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.
Chew was on board a motorised sampan piloted by boatman and fish farm owner Tan Poh Teck.
The sampan was intercepted by the coast guard about 2.4km away from Pulau Ubin following a tip-off. The pair had claimed to be on a fishing trip when they were arrested.
The authorities seized S$5,000 in cash and fishing equipment from the sampan.
Chew was charged on Thursday with fleeing the country to Malaysia. Tan was charged with abetment. Both men will appear at the State Courts on Mar 1.
Chew’s older brother Eng Soon, 61, was arrested on Wednesday afternoon. Chew Eng Soon had abetted his brother to flee the country, authorities allege. He has not yet been charged.
Most recently, a 45-year-old Malaysian man was arrested in Johor Bahru with the help of the Royal Malaysia Police after the State Courts in Singapore issued a warrant of arrest. Khoo Kea Leng will be charged in Singapore on Wednesday.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Zhongshan had urged the apex court to order that Chew’s sentence “commence when he’s produced in the State Courts and when the District Judge does not order his further remand”.
Chew’s current predicament is of his own doing, and he should not be allowed to start serving his sentence while investigations into a separate offence are ongoing, the DPP said, adding that the police needed access to Chew, who is in remand at the Central Police Division.
Chew’s lawyer Jonathan Phipps argued that the clock should start ticking since Chew is now behind bars, and that “on that day (Feb 22, the day he was to surrender), Chew was in court”.
Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang rejected this argument, saying: “Yes, he was in court, but not because of a volitional act of surrender on his part."