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.

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One Response to “City Harvest Church faces CAD inquiry”

  1. There are two issues involved: one the status of a non-profit organisation or religious involving in business investments, and the other is the question of mishandling of the funds or money given by members or attendences (not all are members as registered in the society).

    For an organisation of such size, and the amount of money it is getting from the congregation, the keeping of the accounting books is an uphill task. I remembered in the years before the introduction of Credit Card and other electronic transactions, receipts were issued to donations to the church funds. Now, there is no receipt issued for cash donations and there seems to be no third person to audit the amount the church takes in during their services. And occassionally, these money were given to the invited speakers, such were mentioned by the speakers themselves who were told to collect the offerings.

    Nobody question the church about the money, because they fear offending God if they do so… with the same perspection as the other religious organisations and individuals who were charged and sentenced by the courts: Renci and Father Kang of the RC church.
    With such great amount of money going around, the temptation to dip into the coffers will be very high. There are so many people down the line handling the money, and it only takes one or two Judases to siphon a small portion out without being noticed.

    All Singaporeans are thankful of the investigations, because it will reveal the truth, not hidden under any cloak of religious piety or Divine Authority. If the staffs and pastors are innocent, then the investigation will prove them right, and they have nothing to fear. However the investigation is like stripping the candidates naked, and all hidden secrets revealed, including their Internet sites visits and Web chats, emails etc.


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