A Pastor of a Singaporean “mega-church” have been convicted of a $36 million (£23 million) fraud after diverting the donations of disciples into a failed project to turn a pastor’s wife called Ho into a global rap music star.
According to reports from telegraph ,Kong Hee, the founder and chief pastor, and five aides failed to persuade the judge that the scheme was a legitimate use of church funds to spread God’s word to the secular world by helping his wife break into US music market.
Sun Ho, 43, who performed under the stage name ‘SUN aka Geisha’, singing sexually-charged lyrics in skimpily-clad outfits in series of glitzy music videos, was not accused of any wrongdoing in the venture.
And the court found that they used a further $18.5m to try to hide the first fraud from auditors.
Kong and his wife founded the City Harvest Church in 1989 and by last year it had grown into one of Singapore’s largest, with a congregation of 14,500.
The pastor’s supporters packed the court’s public benches after lining up for seats overnight.
Congregants have backed his defence that the funds were used to finance a “crossover project” to use Ms Ho as the public face and voice of a mission to use pop music to reach non-believers overseas.
The date for sentencing has not been set, but the offences of which the men were convicted carry long jail terms in a country that cracks down hard on financial crime.
For criminal breach of trust, the maximum sentence is life imprisonment, while for falsifying accounts, the penalty is a maximum of 10 years in jail.
“The accused persons chose to engage in covert operations and conspiratorial cover-ups,” said Judge See said in court. “They contrived to create cover stories and clever round-trips concealing their unlawful conduct,” Judge See said in court.
The singer, who showed up for the verdict in a grey pantsuit and sporting heavily highlighted hair, thanked followers for their support in a Facebook post.
“Pastor Kong and I are humbled by the tremendous outpouring of love and support shown to us during this time. We thank you for your prayers,” it read.
Ms Ho, who has released five Mandarin language albums in Taiwan, moved to Los Angeles in 2009 in an attempt to break into the Hollywood music world. But the scandal ended her ambitions.
Scandals and controversies about the lavish lifestyles and sexual exploits of pastors of international mega-churches have been increasingly common in recent years. In the US, there has even been a reality television series about the so-called “bishops of bling” who preach “prosperity theology”.
But this is the first such case in strait-laced Singapore. The predominantly ethnic Chinese population of the former British colony is mainly Buddhist and Taoist, but there has been a growth in affluent evangelical churches in recent years.