So the Kong Hee Drama Starts
And Singapore Daily describes it best as “Kong Hee doing the Ming Yi”.
There probably has to be some basis for the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) to move in as the careers of its officers are on the line if it turned out in the end that everything in CHC’s books is in order. There were Asiaone forum discussions, some already removed by the forum admin, which earlier sounded out a warning peal on CHC’s alleged misuse of church funds. Who is the whistleblower and it has to be someone from inside CHC who supplied pivotal information that something is not right in the megachurch. A disgruntled fellow pastor envious that he is not rewarded as much as the others? Or a disappointed pastor who finally let his conscience speak up.
The CAD investigation hints of a donor scandal of epic proportions like that of NKF and Ren Ci. CHC members are also probably confused with the bad press their church is going through. The Suntec City deal was trailed with accusations on the lack of transparency with regards to church funds being used, and the recent finger pointing that Pastor Kong Hee was deceitful when he plagiarised works for his daily devotions should have alerted the discerning CHC member that CHC’s leadership was in bad shape.
This puts CHC members in a soul-searching moral dilemma. Do they stand with blind faith behind their church or do they harbour doubts about their church leaders intergrity? The best bet for them would be to assume all is well until the CAD established otherwise. However, if CAD eventually discovered that indeed Kong Hee was doing a Ming Yi, would CHC members be stuck in their denial still and think that it is some elaborate Devil’s scheme to attack their pastor?
Some CHC members might already suspect that there could be misuse of church funds but would not dare voice their dissenting views for fear of being seen as a Judas when their fellowship is in a crisis. But precisely because their church is in a crisis is why CHC members themselves must reclaim their church and distance themselves from those involved if the fraud is proven later. They should remind themselves that they worship their Lord God and not their pastors who are human and can succumb to temptations as easily as the next guy. Look at Ming Yi (2010) and Joachim Kang (2004).
City Harvest probe
Specific transactions, individuals being investigated Religious services need not be disrupted and can continue
Jun 01, 2010
by Neo Chai Chin
SINGAPORE – Seventeen members of Singapore’s largest stand-alone church, including its charismatic pastor, are being questioned in what is the biggest charity investigation here since the probe into financial fraud at Ren Ci Hospital and Medicare Centre in February 2008.
As of last night, a police spokesman confirmed, Reverend Kong Hee and 16 other individuals and staff involved in handling City Harvest Church’s financial affairs were assisting police with the probe arising from complaints made to the Commissioner of Charities (COC) on the misuse of church funds.
The allegations, as it turns out, have nothing to do with another piece of controversy for which the megachurch – which has a congregation of 33,000 – made headlines in March.
City Harvest’s indirect $310-million stake in Suntec Singapore had questions raised about its transparency and accountability to church goers. The inquiry was neither “related nor initiated due to the Suntec deal”, said COC yesterday.
MediaCorp understands, rather, that the authorities are looking into specific incidences that could involve the possible falsification of accounts and criminal breach trust, involving sums that amount to millions of dollars and transactions that date back years.
The investigation also extends beyond the church, to several companies linked to certain church individuals and their associates. According to COC, the probe includes companies directly or indirectly related, which are not charities or subsidiaries of the church.
The COC, which was the first to receive complaints about misuse of church funds, had informed the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) when it assessed that some financial transactions might require the latter’s investigation, said a joint statement by both bodies.
From early yesterday morning, CAD officers visited the homes and offices of the 17 individuals and staff to secure financial records and computers.
There will be no impact, however, on the normal services and religious activities of the megachurch – these “need not be disrupted and can continue for its congregation”, the authorities said.
Given the complexity of the linkages, the investigation can be expected to take several months (in the Ren Ci case, the probe took about four months to complete).
The police spokesman gave the assurance that “while it will be thorough, it will be without undue delay”.
Depending on the inquiry’s findings, the COC has the power to suspend, remove or appoint additional charity trustees to ensure proper governance and administration of the charity.
City Harvest Church has affiliated churches in Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan, and a strong online presence – it runs live webcasts and its own broadcast channel.
Besides its huge congregation here, which regularly pack venues at Jurong West and the Singapore Expo during weekend sermons, the church’s high profile has stemmed from its charismatic founder Rev Kong – who started the church in 1989 – and his singer wife Sun Ho.
It is unclear if the latter – who is believed to be in the United States with their son pursuing her career – would be able to shed any light for investigators.
As the news broke yesterday, cyerberspace was abuzz with questions, some from netizens who had pored over the church’s financial records on its website.
One, for instance, wondered about its expenditure of $8,672,000 on multi-media related ventures from July 2007 to Oct 2009. Another asked why the church had changed its financial year-end twice in recent years.
Others called for further investigation into companies regularly contracted by City Harvest, and whether these were funded by church members, or had church members among its board members or shareholders.
When MediaCorp visited the church’s Suntec Tower Three corporate office yesterday, a female staff member at the lift lobby said its office was closed to “give our staff a break” after a five-day conference that had ended Sunday.
As the church assured members of its full cooperation with the authorities – it has appointed law firm Rajah and Tann to act for it – members reacted with faith in their leaders.
Entrepreneur Elim Chew, the founder and president of streetwear company 77th Street, said: “I trust and believe in Rev Kong Hee.” Ms Chew has attended the church for 20 years and said Rev Kong has been a “friend, brother and mentor”.
Another member of two years said her confidence remains unshaken. “The church has always been very transparent in its financial matters – our financial statements are all online and everything is above board,” said the 26-year-old, who works in public relations.
But Mr Terence Lee, 24, a university student and member of seven years, said: “The implications that someone could be misappropriating funds within the church disturbs me, and I hope this isn’t the case.”