City Harvest Church faces CAD inquiry
Probe believed to relate to alleged misuse of funds
By CHEN HUIFEN
01 June 2010
Less than three months after its $310 million acquisition of a stake in Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre, City Harvest Church is once again in the limelight for being the subject of an investigation by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).
About 12 individuals have been called up to help with investigations relating to the church’s accounts. BT understands that the current investigation goes beyond the recent complaints received as a result of the Suntec Singapore acquisition. It apparently concerns specific incidents of alleged misuse of funds which occurred many years ago.
In a joint statement with the Singapore Police Force (SPF), the Office of the Commissioner of Charities (COC) said that it had received complaints on misuse of church funds. The COC then informed the CAD, which assessed that some of the ‘financial transactions involving several individuals and companies, related or connected to the City Harvest Church’ may need to be looked into.
The statement did not indicate the time frame of those complaints but according to past media reports, inquiries by the COC were made after City Harvest’s high-profile acquisition broke news in early March. Then, senior pastor Kong Hee had told members that the church had become a co-owner of Suntec Singapore, a prime commercial development which was to host congregations from next year.
The church’s stake is held through a wholly-owned, special purpose investment holding firm, which has an indirect minority stake in the holding company of Suntec Singapore. It is not known what City Harvest Church’s indirect shareholding is. But the $310 million that it is paying to become a co-owner of the property would include renovation and equipment, as well as other costs, according to information on the church’s website.
Suntec Singapore is majority owned by ARA Asset Management, an affiliate of Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong group, through the ARA Harmony Fund.
A spokeswoman for the church said the organisation is not able to comment until it receives further information. However, in a short note sent to members, executive pastor Derek Dunn said the church is cooperating fully with the investigation of the allegations and ask that they not be alarmed.
‘CHC (City Harvest Church) services and operations will continue normally,’ Reverend Dunn said in the statement. ‘In the meantime, do keep the church in prayer.’
One of a handful of megachurches in Singapore, City Harvest Church was founded by Dr Kong in 1989 and is said to have a member strength of about 33,000.