A City Harvest Church leader accused of aiding in the misuse of $18 million in church funds is reportedly seeking legal representation from the Queen's Counsel, members of which are considered to be the highest echelon of British lawyers.
"I've gone through the list of senior counsel many times, and most of them can't do it for various reasons," Chew Eng Han, 52, the church's investment manager, said of Singapore's current list of senior counsel members in a Dec. 8 report from The Straits Times.
"This is the least I need to do for my family, to get the best legal representation to clear my name and to establish my innocence," Chew added.
Chew maintains that he chose to pursue Great Britain's Queen's Counsel to represent him because out of the 65 senior counsels available in Singapore, 10 present a conflict of interest with the church, 13 are already representing the others accused in the trial, and the remainder are affiliated with the Attorney-General's Chambers.
Chew told The Straits Times that he plans to apply for Queen's Counsel representation via application early next month, and a hearing will then be held to determine whether or not the counsel can represent Chew's case.
The church's investment manager is being charged, along with Pastor Tan Ye Peng, John Lam, and Sharon Tanon, with three counts of criminal breach of trust.
The defendants allegedly helped the church's lead pastor, Kong Hee, 47, siphon $18 million from the church's building fund to help promote and finance the pop music career of his wife, Sun Ho.
Serina Wee, City Harvest Church's former finance chief, received six charges for a criminal breach of trust and four for falsified records.
Wee allegedly helped transfer funds from the church's building fund to the lead pastor's personal accounts.
According to The Straits Times, all the accused in this trial have hired senior counsel to represent them, with the exception of Kong, who hired Member of Parliament Edwin Tong.
The Queen's Counsel is Great Britain's most elite sector of lawyers, and requires attorneys who have trained for at least 10 years and have been appointed by the Lord Chancellor to the Counsel to the Crown.
Singapore's City Harvest Church was founded by Kong and his wife in 2001, and has since gained widespread popularity among evangelical Christians in the Southeast Asian country.
The country's Commercial Affairs Department claimed, after a two-year investigation, that Kong and many of the church's leaders had participated in the illegal misappropriation of church funds.
Pre-trial conferences have indicated that all the accused in the case plan to plead not guilty.