The Office of the Commissioner of Charities (COC) and the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) are investigating some financial transactions involving several individuals and companies related or connected to the City Harvest Church (CHC).
This was after the COC had received complaints of misuse of church funds and informed the CAD.
The CHC was founded in 1989 by Pastor Kong Hee. According to its website, it has 47 affiliate churches in 2009, 29 of which comes under the direct supervision of CHC. The remaining 18 come under the Harvest School of Ministry led by Rev. George Ong.
In 2001, CHC built a 2,300-seater, titanium-clad church complex in Jurong West Street 91 for $48,000,000.
In March this year, CHC announced it is paying $310 million to become a co-owner of Suntec Singapore – this includes the cost of acquiring shares in the consortium which owns 80 per cent of a joint venture fund that owns Suntec Singapore.
City Harvest is one of the largest churches in Singapore, with a congregation of over 30,000 who regularly pack its venues at Jurong West and the Singapore Expo during sermons.
The church’s reach online is even greater – through live webcasts, podcasts and its own broadcast channel. Much of it is driven by its charismatic founder, Reverend Kong.
The pastor keeps a Facebook page that has over 30,000 fans, and has his own YouTube channel. He lives in the US with his son and wife, Sun Ho, a successful pop singer.
This is not the first time City Harvest Church has made headlines. It was just in March that eyebrows were raised over the church’s S$310 million stake in Suntec City Convention Centre, and the Commissioner of Charities was called in to investigate.
In a statement to MediaCorp, the charities watchdog stressed that this round of investigations is not related to the earlier Suntec case.
It added that the case involved more than just City Harvest – it included companies and individuals connected either directly or indirectly with the church. That is why, it said, the police have to be involved.
Depending on the findings, the charity’s trustee may be suspended.
A day after City Harvest Church completed a massive five-day seminar which involved 30,000 people including foreign evangelists, police rounded up several individuals linked to the church for alleged misuse of church funds.
The 17 people who are ‘assisting police with investigations’ included the megachurch’s founder and Senior Pastor Kong Hee, who was picked up early Monday morning.
Police also took away financial records and computers from the homes and offices of the people involved. They did not say what offences they were investigating.