23 August 1964 |
|Known for||City Harvest Church Corruption Case|
|Criminal charge||Three charges of criminal breach of trust|
|Criminal penalty||3 years 6 months imprisonment|
|Parent(s)||Kong Leng and Toh Poh Eng|
Following a 2012 arrest and a trial beginning in 2013 into the allegations that Kong and five other church leaders illegally used $24 million of church funds while misusing another $26 million in a cover-up, Kong was found guilty in 2015 as the "key man" behind the scandal who had guided his five accomplices by the Singapore court of three charges of criminal breach of trust. He is presently serving his sentence.
Kong is the fifth child of Kong Leng, a professional engineer, and Toh Poh-Eng, a diamond trader. From 1975 to 1988, Kong was a member of Marine Parade Christian Centre, an Anglican church located in eastern Singapore. He schooled at Raffles Institution (1977–1980), Raffles Junior College (1981–1982) as well as National University of Singapore, Bachelor of Science (Computer & Information Sciences) (1985–1988).
During his university years, he worked part-time for the Chapel of the Resurrection under the oversight of Anglican vicar, Reverend Dr. Canon James Wong. During that tenure, he helped Canon Wong set up a new congregation, Orchard Christian Centre. Upon university graduation in 1988, Kong worked a short stint in a local publishing house as a programmer.
In 1989, Kong was a staff evangelist with "Christ For Asia", a missions organisation in the Philippines led by Assemblies of God minister, Reverend Randy Sing. At that same time, there was an opportunity for Kong to pioneer a new church in Singapore. With the support and encouragement of some senior pastors in the city, Kong decided to relocate back to Singapore and helped set up a new congregation with 20 youths.
City Harvest Church (1989 - 2016)
From 1997, Kong was the executive director of the Festival of Praise, an annual event that brought together churches for united prayer and worship. Kong was a board member of Dr. David Yonggi Cho's Church Growth International (South Korea) and Dr. Luis Bush's Transform World (Indonesia). With and his wife Sun Ho, they once owned two companies, International Harvest and Skin Couture.
In December 2010, City Harvest Church had an average of 23,256 attendees with 47 affiliate "Harvest" churches, as well as 29 affiliate churches and 6 Bible schools in Asia, namely, in Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan. Another 18 affiliate churches in the East and West Malaysia are under the Malaysian Harvest Fellowship which Kong Hee has co-founded.
On 31 May 2010, the Office of the Commissioner of Charities and the Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police began investigating more than 16 individuals linked to City Harvest Church, including church founder Kong Hee and his wife, Sun Ho. The police were looking into financial transactions involving the possible falsification of accounts and criminal breach of trust amounting to millions of dollars which dated back a number of years. The authorities allowed regular church activities and services being continued for the congregation during ongoing investigations.
On 26 June 2012, the Commissioner of Charities released a press statement detailing the results of its inquiry. It stated that there were misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of City Harvest Church. There were irregularities of at least $23 million in the church's funds, which were used to finance Sun Ho's secular music career. There was also a concerted effort to conceal this movement of funds from stakeholders. Kong Hee and seven others were suspended from their roles in the church.
A subsequent report indicated that the investigations were trigged by complaints made to the authorities.
Arrests and charges
Also on 26 June 2012, Kong Hee and four other leaders of City Harvest Church were arrested and charged with misuse of funds. A sixth leader was charged on 25 July 2012. All six accused were granted bail of S$500,000 and had their passports withdrawn.
Trial and conviction
The verdicts were announced on 21 October 2015. Kong Hee and the other five leaders were found guilty of all charges.
Sentencing was on 20 November 2015. Kong Hee received the heaviest sentence of the six, 8 years in prison. Following a request from the defendants, the judge agreed to defer the start of the sentences until 11 January 2016.
On 27 November 2015, it was reported that the Attorney General's Chambers has filed appeals against the sentence issued to Kong Hee and the five other defendants, on the grounds that it is "manifestly inadequate".
On 2 December 2015, it was reported that Kong Hee and the other five defendants have also filed appeals.
On 4 March 2016, it was reported that the appeal hearing would commence on 19 September 2016.
Singapore's ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan posted a warning on Facebook to be wary of Kong Hee after noting that he had made missionary trips to Japanese cities.
On 7 April 2017, his original sentence of 8 years in prison was reduced to 3.5 years. He has started serving his sentence from the 21 April 2017 onwards. However,in Page 264-267 of the appeal judgment, Kong is characterised as being "coloured by greed and self-interest", as the Crossover project was designed to benefit Sun Ho and Kong Hee. Sun Ho's contract with Xtron (a company controlled by Kong Hee) was to entitle Sun to 25% of gross income (estimated to reach US$30M) regardless of project costs, in addition to a large salary.In addition, he had told members they were off-salary and needed financial support. A private fund was set up to raise over $3 million and was fully expended by the couple in just 3 years.
In March 2010, a blogger identified plagiarism on Kong Hee's 'Daily Devotionals' as they were similar to writings to another publication, "The Leadership Bible" which was published 10 years ago. The copied text were published as physical copies into two books, "Renewing Your Spiritual Energy in 90 Days" without accreditation to the original authors. Kong Hee's daily devotionals were originally compiled from his personal reading notes and printed as supplementary reading for his members, free of charge. Some years later, due to popular demand overseas, a local publisher compiled and released foreign language translations of the devotional for sale.
Kong Hee posted a note on his website and explained that the devotion was "originally meant only for internal circulation among the members of my church. As such, there was an oversight in not quoting the sources of some portions that borrow from the writings of other Christian authors." There was also an apology for the oversight.
The publisher who is also a member of City Harvest Church, acknowledged that at the time of publication, both himself and Mr Kong were aware that certain portions of the content were not original. The publisher of "Renewal" has since made amendments to the soft copies to include accreditation.
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- (PDF) http://www.singaporelawwatch.sg/slw/attachments/100005/%20SGHC%2071%20(amended%2011%20Apr).pdf. Missing or empty
- (PDF) https://www.charities.gov.sg/.../COC_Press_Statement_on_CHC__26_June_2012.pdf. Missing or empty
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- Kong Hee 'plagiarised' book , The Straits Times, 12 June 2010
- City Harvest founder now accused of plagiarism, The Straits Times, 12 June 2010, pg A3
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- Ministries Today Magazine (December 2003).