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Singapore slashes jail term for showbiz pastor



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The head of a wealthy Singaporean Christian church who spent $35m in congregation funds on a failed bid to promote his wife’s music career, had his jail term slashed on appeal on Friday.

The case, which involved raunchy music videos featuring celebrities like rapper Wyclef Jean alongside the wife of City Harvest Church’s leader Kong Hee, originally saw the senior pastor handed an eight year jail term.

But Singapore’s High Court halved the 52-year-old’s 2015 sentence for misusing around Sg$50m ($35.6m) in church funds in the failed attempt to turn his wife Sun Ho, also a pastor, into a global pop star.

The case was described by state prosecutors as the largest misappropriation of charity funds in Singapore’s legal history.

Prosecutors had argued that Kong should be jailed 11-12 years, but the high court on Friday sentenced him to three years and six months jail.

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Five other leaders at the glitzy megachurch, which used pop music to attract members and boost donations, also saw their original prison sentences reduced by the court ruling.

A district court in 2015 convicted all six church leaders of fraud for diverting Sg$24m from the church building fund to help Sun, a Mandarin pop singer, break into the global English-language market.

They were also found guilty of misappropriating another Sg$26m to cover their tracks with a complex web of sham financial transactions.

Sun moved to Los Angeles in 2009 where she starred in several racy videos, including China Wine, which was widely viewed – and ridiculed – on YouTube.

Appeals court judge Chao Hick Tin said the prison terms were cut as the six had acted in what they felt were the best interests of the church.

“The project was endorsed by the body of CHC,” the judge said.

Tiny Singapore is one of the world’s most affluent nations. Despite being a largely Buddhist and Taoist society, the city-state is home to well-funded Christian groups.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Bahaa admits standing-in for Mo Salah in Tv ads



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Ahmad Bahaa says he has acted as a stand-in for the Liverpool and Egypt striker in TV commercials.

Electronics engineer Bahaa told an Egyptian talk show on Al-Nahar TV he had appeared as Salah in mobile phone and soft drinks adverts, as well as an anti-drugs campaign.

“I did several ads with Salah,” he said.

Bahaa only appears in wide shots, not close-ups.

Mo Salah and Ahmad Bahaa

Seeing double? Mo Salah and his lookalike

“Salah of course can’t stay for long to shoot a single ad,” Bahaa explained.

“I would spend a couple of days [shooting] here, while they complete [filming] with him in England.

“This is just to speed up the process because he doesn’t have a lot of time to spare.”

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24 Hours Across Africa

Referendum is inevitable; says Catalan ex-deputy leader



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After massive protest over Spain’s Supreme Court ruling on the Catalan separatist leaders, The ex-regional learder says referendum is unavoidable.

Oriol Junqueras, the Catalan regional government’s former deputy leader, said in emailed answers to questions that the prison sentences imposed on him and eight others on charges of sedition only made them and their movement stronger and more determined

The court on Monday slapped the longest prison term, 13 years, on Junqueras. The convictions sparked protests across the region.

“What I’m sure of is that this conflict is to be resolved via ballot boxes … we are convinced that sooner or later a referendum is inevitable because otherwise, how can we give a voice to the citizens?” he wrote from prison, adding that he did not regret having organized a referendum in 2017.

“That we will carry on and not give up because we never have and won’t do it now. That prison and exile have made us stronger and makes us ever more convinced, if that is possible, in our profoundly democratic beliefs.”

All defendants were acquitted of the gravest charge, rebellion. Three other defendants were found guilty only of disobedience and not sentenced to prison.

“I’m sure this sentence will not weaken the independence movement, quite the contrary,” he said.

Catalonia’s independence drive has been a major challenge for Spain for years, attracting worldwide attention when separatist leaders defied courts and conducted a referendum on secession in October 2017 and a subsequent short-lived declaration of independence.

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