Megachurch pastor Kong Hee of City Harvest Church (CHC) in Singapore has been arrested along with his deputy and three other ministry members for allegedly misusing $18 million in church funds, which authorities claim Pastor Kong used to help launch his wife's music career.
"This morning, Pastor Kong Hee, Pastor Tan Ye Peng, John Lam, Chew Eng Han and Sharon Tan were informed to attend court tomorrow. There is no case that is being brought against the Church," reads an official statement by City Harvest on its website.
Since the arrest, the church leaders have been released on bail but will have to return to court on Wednesday, ChannelNewsAsia shared, when authorities reportedly plan to officially charge Pastor Kong with conspiracy to commit criminal breach of trust.
The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) commenced an investigation into financial activities at City Harvest Church back in May 2010, around the same time the Commissioner of Charities (COC) launched its own probe into the alleged misconduct and mismanagement of the building fund. The investigations found that at least $18 million in funds had been misused and had helped finance the music career of Hee's wife and co-founder of the church, Ho Yeow Sun.
"If you look at this organization, you can see that the board was dominated by people who were essentially employees of the church. So, the question therefore is where is the check and balances in place," offered Mak Yuen Teen, associate professor from the National University of Singapore Business School.
"The board was not really independent of the management of the organization. This case is also complex because you do have a number of individuals who are implicated in this case. So, if you have a number of individuals involved, it can make it a bit more difficult to detect and the risk becomes much higher in terms of governance."
The COC has also shared that as a possible consequence of their actions, the accused individuals could be removed from their positions as trustees, governing board members, officers, agents or employees of the church.
Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, clarified and backed up the church's statement that City Harvest itself has not been charged with any misconduct, and it is free to continue services and events.
Pastor Kong helped build the church in 2001, and reportedly currently averages over 23,000 attendees weekly.
"Kong is known throughout Asia as a dynamic speaker, communicating the message of faith in a very relevant and contemporary way. He has a strong vision to train 21st century leaders who would plant strong local churches everywhere in Asia," the church's official website states.
"Each week, his half-hour television program 'Harvest Time' is (broadcast) many times in 107 countries through 6 television networks," it adds.