Pastor Kong Hee, the founder of City Harvest Church (CHC), was arrested with four other church members Tuesday over allegations related to illegal and improper use of church funds.
Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, Lam Leng Hung, Chew Eng Han and Sharon Tan are all expected to be charged in court Wednesday. The arrested officials will be charged with criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts of the church.
The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) on Tuesday questioned the five after a series of investigation into CHC's financial transactions. The department reportedly received reports of misuse of CHC funds.
The Commissioner of Charities (COC) and the CAD began looking into reported misuse of church funds on May 31, 2010.
The COC said it found financial irregularities of at least S$23 million during the course of its investigation. The funds, which were raised for the benefit of the church, were allegedly misallocated to finance the music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun, who is a co-founder of the church.
Ho Yeow Sun has since been suspended from her role as governing board member in the church. Two other executive church members - Kelvin Teo Meng How and Tan Su Pheng Jacqueline - were suspended along with the five arrested on Tuesday.
Some religious leaders have expressed optimism that the public will not refrain from contributing to charity funds despite the allegation against the City Harvest executive members.
Tan Thiam Lye, chairman of the Singapore Taoist Federation, said it is best for religious groups to have a group of people assigned to fund management.
"If you have one person to do all tasks, people will think we are not transparent," he said.
Low Swee Seh, CEO of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu-Chi Foundation, said there should be an extensive deliberation before funds are released for charity purposes.
"When we help needy families, our whole team visits the family, assesses their situation, income and expenditure. We come back and have two meetings and will discuss if the family really needs our help," he explained.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean clarified to reporters that the charges filed by CAD are against specific church members. Thus, the church itself is free to continue its services and activities.
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