CHC member alleged defamation in report

City Harvest Church (CHC) member writes to MCYS to complain of Commissioner of Charities statements.

CHC member writes to MCYS alleging defamation

A City Harvest Church member, Christopher Pang, has written to Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth & Sports Chan Chun Sing alleging that the Commissioner of Charities’ statement on the misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity is defamatory.

Speaking up for the five leaders who were charged in court on Wednesday, Mr Pang claimed that the statement is defamatory, and asked for an apology from the Commissioner of Charities.

He asserted that as a society, the church does not owe members of the public any account of how its funds are used, yet audited accounts are posted on the church’s website for transparency and accountability.

He added that he was not supportive of the move by the Commissioner of Charities to suspend eight church leaders from their offices.

He is particular about the word usage and allegations among others:

There was even an attempt to conceal the existence of this Account by closing the joint bank account and dealing only in cash transactions, which was kept in a safe at the Charity.

Blah blah.

Really?

Of all that was in the report, subject is scrutinizing it over possible defamations? The point of the report is much more than that. Christians in general will not want to be prejudiced over an incident as tiny as City Harvest Church incident; subject should not pick on work processes done incorrectly as he alleged. His allegations act as a poor diversion to the bigger picture — a charitable organization has mismanaged a large sum of money. While he can continue to be upset of over possible defamations, no charity organization should let the mismanagement incident slide and work on improving their accountability among charities.

Pastor Kong Hee charged

Five senior members of City Harvest Church (CHC), including its founder Kong Hee, have been charged in court for alleged criminal breach of trust. The three charges they faced are:

  1. Sham transactions to fund Sun Ho’s music endeavor
  2. Series of transactions to clear (1), round tipping
  3. Covering of tracks

Continue reading “Pastor Kong Hee charged”

Where did the 23 million go?

With regards to the City Harvest Church inquiry, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) commenced investigations into financial transactions involving several individuals and companies, related or connected to the City Harvest Church (Charity). Misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the Charity is uncovered.

Key notes:

  • Financial irregularities of at least $23 million from the Charity’s funds have been discovered. These funds were used with the purported intention to finance Ho Yeow Sun’s secular music career to connect with people.
  • There was a concerted effort to conceal this movement of funds from its stakeholders.
  • The following persons from the exercise of their office or employment as governing board members, officers, agents or employees of the Charity are suspended with immediate effect:
    1. Kong Hee (Member of the Charity’s Board and Executive Member);
    2. Lam Leng Hung (Chairman of the Charity’s Board, Trustee, Agent and Executive Member);
    3. Tan Ye Peng (Vice-Chairman of the Charity’s Board, Trustee, Employee, Agent and Executive Member);
    4. Tan Shao Yuen Sharon (Employee and Executive Member);
    5. Chew Eng Han (Agent and Executive Member);
    6. Ho Yeow Sun (Agent and Executive Member);
    7. Kelvin Teo Meng How (Agent, Employee and Executive Member); and
    8. Tan Su Pheng Jacqueline (Employee and Executive Member).

Ho Yeow Sun (or Sun Ho) music endeavor

In 2002, the Charity’s founders, Kong Hee and Ho Yeow Sun (“Sun Ho”), embarked on a “Crossover Project” [“the Project”], with the purported intention to use Sun Ho’s secular music to connect with people and reach out to non-Christians.

Despite the representations made by the Charity and unknown to the Executive Members, the Charity’s funds were used to fund the Project. Over a period of 3 years (2007 to 2010), at least $23 million was used. However, during this period of time, the Executive members were not told of the actual purpose of the use of these funds.

Between December 2007 and May 2010, the Charity’s funds were used to finance the Project under the guise of donations to its affiliated church in Kuala Lumpur, known as the City Harvest Church Kuala Lumpur [“CHCKL”]. The funds were then transmitted by CHCKL to support the Project in the United States. During this period, at least $2.1 million was transferred from the Charity to CHCKL to fund the Project.

In addition, donations and tithes to the Charity were transferred into a private fund known as the Multi-Purpose Account [“MPA”]

For the period April 2007 to March 2010, the funds were used for purported expenditures of Kong Hee and Sun Ho, amounting to approximately $600,000 and $3 million respectively.

In or around April 2009, a plan was conceptualised by Tan Ye Peng, Chew Eng Han, Serina Wee Gek Yin and Tan Shao Yuen Sharon to transfer monies amounting to $600,000 donated by Wahju Hanafi to the Charity’s Building Fund via a “refund” of Building Fund donations into the MPA to meet some funding needs of the Project, which included US$100,000 to finance a media team from Singapore to publicise and write about Sun Ho’s music career in the United States.

Source: MCYS

Summary of misappropriation

  • at least $23 million was used, over a period of 3 years (2007 to 2010),
  • at least $2.1 million was transferred from the City Harvest Church to City Harvest Church Kuala Lumpur to fund the “Crossover Project,”
  • Kong Hee expenditure: $600,000,
  • Sun Ho expenditure: $3 million,
  • transfer monies amounting to $600,000 donated by Wahju Hanafi to the Charity’s Building Fund,
  • US$100,000 to finance a media team from Singapore to publicise and write about Sun Ho’s music career in the United States,
  • Love gifts,
  • Kong Hee’s company sold over $3 million worth of merchandise to the City Harvest Church,
  • However, in 2008, Kong Hee “refunded” royalties to the Charity amounting to approximately $770,000,
  • Chew Eng Han suffered financial difficulties, the Charity refunded donations amounting to about $338,000 to him in two separate tranches, i.e. $240,000 and $98,000. However, in respect of the $98,000, the Charity’s Board only gave approval for the refund of donations to Chew Eng Han 9 months after the refunds were made.

This is not the first time a charity, in this case City Harvest Church (CHC), was scrutinized, previously there was the National Kidney Foundation as well as Ren Ci.

City Harvest’s Kong Hee arrested

Latest after the Commercial Affairs Department probed into the alleged misuse of church funds in May 2010, this has led to the arrest of the pastors:

City Harvest church founder Kong Hee and 4 others arrested

City Harvest church founder Kong Hee and four others from his ministry were arrested by the police on Tuesday morning, two years after investigations first began into the homegrown church.

Mr Kong, deputy pastor Tan Ye Peng and three other church leaders were picked up by the police at their homes early on Tuesday morning and taken in for questioning over the alleged misuse of church funds as well as alleged breaches under charity laws.

Source: Straits Times

And on Channel News Asia:

CAD arrests 5 City Harvest Church members, including Pastor Kong Hee

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean has stressed that the charges filed by CAD are against the five individuals from the City Harvest Church regarding the use of church funds.

He said the charges are not filed against CHC itself and the church is free to continue its church services and activities.

Mr Teo added that CAD carries out investigations when it receives information that a criminal offence may have been committed.

Sun Ho has not been arrested but is suspended from her position as an Executive Member of the Church. Story is still developing.

Is pure altruism possible?

On altruism, Professor Judith Lichtenberg (Philosophy at Georgetown University) explains…

Common sense tells us that some people are more altruistic than others. Egoism’s claim that these differences are illusory — that deep down, everybody acts only to further their own interests — contradicts our observations and deep-seated human practices of moral evaluation.

Altruists should not be confused with people who automatically sacrifice their own interests for others. We admire Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who saved over 1,000 Tutsis and Hutus during the 1994 Rwandan genocide; we admire health workers who give up comfortable lives to treat sick people in hard places. But we don’t admire people who let others walk all over them; that amounts to lack of self-respect, not altruism.

Altruism is possible and altruism is real, although in healthy people it intertwines subtly with the well-being of the agent who does good. And this is crucial for seeing how to increase the amount of altruism in the world. Aristotle had it right in his “Nicomachean Ethics”: we have to raise people from their “very youth” and educate them “so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought.”

Source: New York Times

Slavoj Zizek touches on implications of charitable giving

Renowned philosopher Slavoj Žižek investigates the surprising ethical implications of charitable giving.

RSA Animate – First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

“The proper aim is to try to reconstruct society in such a basis that poverty is impossible and the altruistic virtues have prevented the carrying out of this aim. The worst slaves owners are those who are kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system from being realized by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it,” he says, partially quoting Oscar Wilde.

Interesting talk. Watch it if you have the time.

New Creation Church discusses their business affiliations

Following the allegations against the managements of City Harvest Church, another mega church has voluntarily discussed their business affiliations. It appears they are quite business-oriented too.

New Creation Church talks about its affiliated companies

SINGAPORE: About a week after it emerged that 17 members of City Harvest Church had been called up for investigations into alleged misuse of funds, another mega church, New Creation Church, spent time during each of its four services on Sunday to talk about its five affiliated companies.

That year, New Creation, which has 17,000 followers, announced that its business arm Rock Productions had teamed up with mall developer CapitaMalls Asia to build an “integrated hub” in Buona Vista.

The $1-billion project – half of which the church has invested in – will house shops, a concert hall and a 5,000-seat theatre for services when ready in 2012.

Rock Productions also owns and manages the Rock Auditorium in Suntec City where services are held now and its adjoining Rock Gifts and Book Centre as well.

It also owns Marine Cove, a recreational and restaurant cluster at East Coast Park, which cost $10 million.

Meanwhile, a 10,000-strong congregation at City Harvest Church’s weekend services at Singapore Expo was told that senior pastor Kong Hee, 46, is taking a “needed rest”. (Source: ChannelNewsAsia)

In my opinion, it isn’t so much as to what businesses a church is associated with that their members want to know; rather, it’s why do they even need to get into these business affiliations. To grow money? Perhaps I’m shortsighted, but what justifiable reason is there for a church to get richer than it already is?

Bill Gates bounces back to being world #1 richest

Forbes 2009 billionaire list is out and Bill Gates regains title as the world’s richest man despite losing USD18 billion in the past 12 months. Gates is now worth USD40 billion. Well, the other fellows lost something like USD25 billion so Gates is top again. Warren Buffet’s (2nd richest) Berkshire Hathaway is down 45% since last March. For Carlos Slim Helu & family, net worth dropped to USD35 billion.

In Pictures: The 2009 Billionaire List

Software visionary regains title as the world’s richest man despite losing $18 billion in the past 12 months. Stepped down from day-to-day duties at Microsoft last summer to devote his talents and riches to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Organization’s assets were $30 billion in January; annual letter lauds endowment manager Michael Larson for limiting last year’s losses to 20%. Gates decided to increase donations in 2009 to $3.8 billion, up 15% from 2008. Dedicated to fighting hunger in developing countries, improving education in America’s high schools and developing vaccines against malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. Appointed Microsoft Office veteran Jeffrey Raikes chief exec of Gates Foundation in September. Gates remains Microsoft chairman. Sells shares each quarter, redeploys proceeds via investment vehicle Cascade; more than half of fortune invested outside Microsoft. Stock down 45% in past 12 months. “Creative capitalist” wants companies to match profitmaking with doing good. (Source: Forbes)

Well, that is still a lot of money. I’m rank #239025921 in the world with $20 in my wallet right now.

IKEA is the world’s largest charity

I didn’t know IKEA is perceived as a charity. Interesting.

Is IKEA the World’s Largest Charity?

IKEA’s technically a charity. But before you write down the umlaut-riddled name of your most recent dresser purchase as a charitable donation on your next tax return, it’s worth exploring this ownership structure, which was brought to light by a 2006 article in The Economist.

Ingvar Kamprad founded IKEA in Almhult, Sweden in 1943 when he was just 17 years old. Kamprad originally sold low-priced consumer goods from his home and by mail, but added a furniture line in 1948. As the company began opening its trademark sprawling stores, Kamprad grew fabulously wealthy, although he retained frugal tastes like driving an aging Volvo and always flying economy class. By some debated estimates, Kamprad is the world’s richest man, and even Forbes’ more conservative accounting pegs him as the seventh-richest person in the world with a net worth in the neighborhood of $31 billion.

Why can’t anyone agree on how much Kamprad’s worth? Well, for one he doesn’t technically own IKEA anymore. In 1982, his ownership stake in the company was given to the newly formed Stichting Ingka Foundation, a Dutch charity. The foundation in turn administers the stores through Ingka Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary that operates as a for-profit company.

It would seem that the entire charitable foundation is a clever, if dubious, way for IKEA to avoid paying taxes. In 2004, the company pulled in a 1.4 billion euro profit, but since it’s owned by a tax-exempt charity, it didn’t pay a dime. (Source: mental floss blog)

I still like IKEA though. Probably not the corporate side anymore but they make nice furniture.