SINGAPORE - A court has convicted former City Harvest Church (CHC) leader Chew Eng Han of attempting to leave Singapore illegally.
On Wednesday (Dec 12), District Judge Victor Yeo also found Chew, 58, guilty of attempting to defeat the course of justice by boarding a motorised boat at the Pulau Ubin jetty on Feb 21 to try to avoid his jail sentence.
Chew will be back in court on Jan 29 next year.
During the trial on Sept 24 this year, the court heard that Chew admitted during investigations that he had sought to leave Singapore, as he "felt injustice" over his High Court case involving the misuse of church funds.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong said that the former church leader had also stated during investigations that he did "not want to be convicted".
Chew had earlier been sentenced to jail of three years and four months for his role in the misuse of millions of dollars of church funds.
Five other CHC leaders - including founder-pastor Kong Hee - who were also convicted of misusing church funds, began serving their terms in April last year. Chew started serving his sentence for his earlier offences on March 1 this year, after his capture near Pulau Ubin.
During the one-day trial in September, the court heard that Chew had made arrangements to leave Singapore illegally.
This entailed taking a motorised boat to four fish farms in Singapore waters near the north-east of Pulau Ubin, close to the boundary between Singapore and Malaysian waters.
Shortly after midnight on Feb 21, Chew received a call asking him to go to Changi Village at 7.30am. His older brother picked him up from his home at around 6.45am and drove him there.
Chew made a phone call and was told to take a boat to the Pulau Ubin jetty, as police patrol boats had been seen in the vicinity. Chew took a boat to the island and boarded another vessel at a jetty there at 8.19am that day.
Police Coast Guard team leader Lam Kok Wah said in a statement that he received a call on his mobile phone at 5.40am on Feb 21 informing him that an "unknown individual" would be attempting to leave Singapore illegally from the vicinity of Changi in a boat.
Inspector Lam spotted the vessel in the waters off Pulau Ubin at 8.43am and Police Coast Guard officers intercepted it.
Officers then arrested the two people on it - Chew and Singaporean fish farm owner Tan Poh Teck, 53, who was sentenced to 27 weeks' jail in July.
Two Malaysian men were also jailed earlier this year for their roles in the case. Private tour guide Tan Kim Ho, 42, and freelance driver Khoo Kea Leng, 45, were each sentenced to six months' jail.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.