City Harvest case: Sharon Tan released, Serina Wee & John Lam soon eligible for home detention
Much depends on the Court of Appeal judgement.
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You may be forgiven if you have lost track of the status of the high-profile City Harvest Church (CHC) case.
It has been more than seven months since church founder Kong Hee along with four of the other convicts in the CHC case – Sharon Tan, John Lam, Tan Ye Peng and Serina Wee, surrendered themselves on April 21 to State Courts to commence their prison sentences pending the outcome of a Criminal Reference filing at the Court of Appeal by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).
Quick recap of the case
Yes, it’s not over yet.
We know your head hurts, so here’s a quick recap of Singapore’s largest charity financial scandal and one of the longest running case in our judicial history:
- Oct. 2015: CHC leaders were found guilty of misappropriating S$50 million of church funds.
- They were originally sentenced to jail terms of between 8 years and 1 year 9 months, under the most aggravated form of Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT), which is Section 409 of the Penal Code1
- Apr 7, 2017: All six appealed against their convictions, and the High Court convicted them of a reduced charge under Section 406 of the Penal Code 2 , based on a split decision.
- This resulted in their jail sentences reduced by about half, ranging from three-and-a-half years to seven months.
- Aug 1, 2017: The public prosecutor appealed to reinstate the original convictions and the Court of Appeal reserved judgment. The apex court said it would deliver its judgment “in due course” but did not specify when.
2Section 409 provides for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment or up to 20 years’ jail and a fine.
Sharon Tan released
Under the Conditional Remission System and Mandatory Aftercare Scheme, most offenders will be released at the two-third mark of their sentence.
Based on this approach, this is what all six convicts would have serve:
- Kong Hee, 52, CHC founder, gets 3 years 6 months, reduced from 8 years
After remission: 2 years 4 months
- Chew Eng Han, 56, former CHC fund manager, gets 3 years 4 months, reduced from 6 years.
After remission: 2 years 2 months-plus 1
- Tan Ye Peng, 44 , deputy senior pastor, gets 3 years 2 months, reduced from 5 1/2 years.
After remission: 2 years 1 month-plus
- Serina Wee, 40, former CHC finance manager, gets 2 years 6 months, reduced from 5 years.
After remission:1 year 8 months
- John Lam, 49, former CHC finance committee member, gets 1 year 6 months, reduced from 3 years.
After remission: 12 months
- Sharon Tan, 41, former CHC finance manager, gets 7 months, reduced from 21 months.
After remission: 4 months-plus
According to Chinese evening daily, Lianhe Wanbao, former CHC finance manager Sharon Tan who received the lightest sentence, has been released from prison around Sept. 11, based on the two-thirds remission rule.
The Wanbao report on this latest development also quoted an unnamed friend of Tan, saying that she has not been allowed to leave Singapore to join her husband and three children who are now in the US, given the outstanding judgement by the Court of Appeal.
The report also speculated that Tan will have to be incarcerated a second time if the outcome of the appeal reinstates the more serious CBT charge, which carries a heavier sentence.
John Lam and Serina Wee may be eligible for home detention scheme
Wanbao also reported that Lam and Wee may soon be eligible for the Home Detention Scheme (HDS).
The report quoted a lawyer saying that they will be eligible after serving half of their shortened sentence under the remission scheme, subject to certain conditions.
This means that Lam may be able to leave prison in the short term since he has served seven months out of his 12-month sentence so far. For Wee, she will be looking at Feb 2019 to qualify for HDS.
Top photo from City News