SINGAPORE: The six convicted City Harvest Church leaders, including founder Kong Hee, are permanently barred from having general control and management of any charity, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said in a media statement on Wednesday (May 24).
Kong as well as John Lam, Tan Ye Peng, Sharon Tan, Serina Wee and Chew Eng Han were convicted of misappropriating S$50 million from the megachurch’s coffers. All of them are serving their sentences, except for Chew, who was granted a stay until the Court of Appeal decides questions of law brought by the prosecution.
"It is a pertinent consideration that the offences (they) were convicted of, namely criminal breach of trust and/or falsification of accounts, involve dishonesty and/or deception," MCCY said in Wednesday's statement.
The permanent disqualification means that the six leaders can no longer hold any governance or management positions in a charity, it said.
Stern warning letters were also issued to church executive members Kelvin Teo Meng How and Tan Su Pheng Jacqueline, the statement said. It noted that they were comparatively less culpable than the six convicted leaders in the mismanagement of the charity.
Additionally, the office of the Commissioner of Charities issued a new restriction order prohibiting City Harvest Church from appointing or employing the eight people without prior approval of the commissioner.
This is to ensure that the charitable assets of City Harvest are safeguarded at all times, it said.
It added that the restriction orders issued previously to restrict the church from paying the legal fees of the six convicted leaders still remain in force, adding that the new orders are separate measures to provide the Commissioner of Charities with oversight and supervision over the church's charitable assets.
All the above-mentioned individuals may continue to perform their religious duties, it said.
"Good governance, accountability and transparency are fundamental principles for the proper administration of charities," said the Commissioner of Charities, Dr Ang Hak Seng, adding that all officers, trustees and employees of charities have to act in the best interests of their charities.
"Leaders, especially, have an even greater responsibility to uphold these principles as they are appointed and entrusted by their members.
"My office will not tolerate any mismanagement or misconduct in the administration of a charity, and will not hesitate to take action against those responsible."