Church’s remarks could interfere judicial process: Lawyers…
Lawyers said the statement made by executive pastor of City Harvest Church regarding allegations of misuse of funds before the case has gone to trial is risky – if not reckless – and could be construed as interfering with judicial process.
In a strongly worded statement on Thursday night, executive pastor Aries Zulkarnain, 39, dismissed allegations that the church was cheated of $50 million, claiming that the sum was repaid to the church in full with interest.
Insiders said the church deemed the statement necessary to allay the concerns of its 30,000 members, reported The Straits Times.
They were alleged to have funnelled $24 million into a sham bond investments to further the music career of Kong’s pop singer wife Ho Yeow Sun. They also allegedly misappropriated a further $26.6 million in church funds to cover up the first amount.
The five have not pleaded guilty and are due in court on July 25. If found guilty, they could face lengthy jail terms, even for life.
The statement by Mr Aries was posted on the church’s website and sent to the media. In it, he addressed the allegations and maintained that the church did not lose any funds in the alleged transactions. He also said the accused did not make any personal profit.
He added that the church stood with those involved in the case, including Kong, and that church activities were unaffected. Kong and his deputy Tan Ye Peng could continue to preach at the church.
Lawyers interviewed by The Straits Times are divided on whether Mr Aries’ comments constituted subjudice, a legal concept referring to words or actions that may affect or prejudice the outcome of court proceedings.
It is an offence to commit subjudice.
“To address the allegations is subjudice, as the evidence has not been heard in court,” said president of the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore Subhas Anandan.
However, other lawyers said it is debatable whether Mr Aries’ comments were in contempt of court.
Criminal lawyer R. S. Bajwa told The Straits Times that it remained up to the prosecution to decide if the point about no funds being lost will be a point of contention.
The Attorney-General Chambers said that criminal charges were before the court and that neither the prosecution nor any other party should comment on issues which will be subject to adjudication and on which evidence will be led in court.
The police also gave a similar response: “Generally, in law, the offence of criminal breach of trust of monies is established once there is misappropriation of the monies with the requisite intent, regardless of whether there have or have not been subsequent attempts at restitution by the accused.”
(From: Church’s remarks could interfere judicial process: Lawyers, AsiaOne, http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20120630-356345.html, 30/06/2012. (Accessed 03/07/2012.))