Ex-City Harvest Church leader Chew Eng Han convicted of attempting to escape S'pore in sampan

His defence lawyer said he wasn't trying to run away.

Matthias Ang| December 13, 12:04 AM

Former City Harvest Church leader Chew Eng Han has been found guilty of attempting to escape from Singapore via a motorised sampan and attempting to defeat the course of justice.

The conviction was made on Dec. 12. District Judge Victor Yeo passed the verdict.

As reported by Today, Chew will return to court on Jan. 29, 2019, to be sentenced.

For his charge of attempting to flee Singapore, Chew is looking at either a sentence of up to six months' imprisonment, or a fine of up to S$2,000, or both.

For his charge of attempting to defeat the course of justice, Chew can receive a jail term of up to three-and-a-half years.

Defence for Chew unconvincing

According to Channel NewsAsia, the judge was unconvinced by the argument made by Chew's defence lawyer, Adrian Wee.

The lawyer argued that the defendant had been "apprehended too soon", when he had not actually carried out the crime of fleeing Singapore.

Wee had argued that Chew was not on the boat that was intending to leave for Malaysia.

Rather, as further reported by Today, Chew's destination was a cluster of fishing villages off the north-east coast of Pulau Ubin, which was still within Singapore waters.

CNA then reported Wee adding that as Chew "had not completed the act of leaving Singapore", he could not be said to have defeated the course of justice.

Prosecution disagrees, argues intention was already present

Today reported that this then drew Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Sng's counter-argument that the intention to leave Singapore had already been "made out", even if Chew was not on board the ship that would take him to Malaysia.

Sng was reported by CNA as also stating that the course of justice ends only when justice has been served.

The judge agreed with the prosecution, stating:

"By the time the accused embarked on the first boat, he was clearly on his way to leaving Singapore from an unauthorised place."

The judge also added that the defence's arguments "would require the court to adopt an overly narrow view."

Three other men jailed for helping Chew

In the meantime, three other men have been jailed for their part in helping Chew to escape.

As reported by Today and CNA, Singaporean fish farm owner Tan Poh Teck, 53, who had piloted the motorised sampan for Chew's escape, was sentenced to 27 weeks' jail.

Two Malaysians, Khoo Kea Leng, 45, and Tan Kim Ho, 42, were also handed a jail term of six months each for their roles in organising the escape.

According to CNA, Tan was the individual who had made the arrangements for Chew to reach Malaysia by boat, while Khoo had been the individual responsible for linking Chew with Tan in the first place.

Chew's escape was first made on Feb. 21, the day before he was due to serve his original jail term of three years and four months.

CNA reported that thus far, Chew has served more than nine months of his original sentence.

Top image screenshot from CNA video