Prosecution makes case against ex-City Harvest Church leader Chew Eng Han for attempting to flee
SINGAPORE: The prosecution made its case on Monday (Sep 24) against former City Harvest Church leader Chew Eng Han for his alleged attempt to flee Singapore.
Chew, 58, is currently serving his sentence for his role in the City Harvest saga, where six church leaders misappropriated S$50 million worth of church funds.
He was originally sentenced to six years' jail, a term which the High Court reduced to three years and four months.
However, a day before he was to serve his sentence, Chew was arrested on a motorised sampan along with boatman Tan Poh Teck.
He claimed trial for two charges: One of attempting to leave Singapore and one of attempting to defeat justice.
On Monday, a gaunt Chew sat in the dock in his purple inmate's outfit as Deputy Public Prosecutors Christopher Ong and Eugene Sng made their case.
The prosecution called on three witnesses - two crew commanders of the Police Coast Guard (PCG) vessels that intercepted Chew's boat, and the police investigation officer in charge of Chew's case.
Crew commanders Lam Kok Wah and Tan Chiew Han told the court how they were instructed to look out for a craft that was attempting to leave Singapore illegally.
Inspector Lam told the court that he was the team leader of the night shift on Feb 21, when he was informed that an "unknown individual would be attempting to leave Singapore illegally".
He was given the boat number as well as Tan Poh Teck's name, and was originally told that the attempt would be made from Changi.
He later learnt that the escape attempt would be from Pulau Ubin instead, and positioned a boat each on either side of the island.
CHEW LOOKING STRAIGHT AHEAD: PCG CREW COMMANDER
When he spotted Chew's sampan, Insp Lam shouted at the two men he saw on the craft.
"The passenger was not responding, only looking straight ahead without acknowledging me," he said.
Chew's defence lawyer Adrian Wee asked Insp Lam what direction Chew's vessel was heading, to which he replied: "Eastward."
He asserted that if Chew's sampan had continued in its course, it would have "run aground at Pulau Tekong", a theory that Insp Lam agreed with.
He was aided in the interception of the vessel by another PCG crew commander, Station Inspector (SI) Tan Chiew Han.
SI Tan told the court that he saw the vessel being pursued by Insp Lam's PCG craft.
He picked up speed to shadow the vessel, as he had been told to intercept it at the earliest possible opportunity.
The boat was intercepted at 8.43am in the vicinity of Chek Jawa Wetlands and Pulau Sekudu.
At the time that the boat was intercepted, Tan was piloting it towards four fish farms, which were in Singapore waters near north-east Pulau Ubin.
Chew was to board a second boat close to the boundary between Singapore and Malaysian waters and head towards Malaysia.
Chew and Tan were arrested and more than S$5,000 cash seized from Chew, along with fishing equipment that his brother Steven Chew Eng Soon had bought for him from Mustafa Centre.
The prosecution's third witness, Assistant Superintendent Samantha Wong, confirmed in court that three statements had been taken from Chew, and messages retrieved from his phone.
These include messages exchanged with Malaysian driver Khoo Kea Leng, who helped Chew in his escape bid.
During investigations, Chew admitted that he sought to leave Singapore because he "felt injustice and unfair for my high court case" and that he did not want to be convicted.
The prosecution submitted that in boarding the first boat, Chew had embarked on the crime proper and already attempted to leave Singapore.
"He had embarked on the first leg of a journey out of Singapore, which was part of a single arrangement presented to the accused by Khoo, for which he had agreed to make a payment of $12,000," said the prosecution.
They added that Chew's intention was to "entirely avoid serving his sentence", which amounts to attempting to defeat the course of justice.
When asked by District Judge Victor Yeo if he wanted to take the witness stand, Chew said through his lawyer that he elected to remain silent.
The defence reserved its submissions until the closing of the trial.
The lawyers on both sides are to make submissions in October, and the judgment is slated to be delivered on Nov 13.
Chew's boatman Tan was sentenced to 27 weeks' jail in July this year. Another accomplice in the escape plot, Malaysian man Tan Kim Ho, was sentenced to jail for six months, the same jail term that Khoo received.