The co-founder of a Singapore church and five other leaders were convicted of multi-million dollar fraud on Wednesday for diverting money to support his wife's pop singing career, a rare fall from grace in the tightly regulated city-state.
The mix of money, faith and scandal in the case has fascinated the public in affluent Singapore where such cases are rare under a system with little tolerance for corruption.
Senior pastor Kong Hee heads City Harvest Church, one of a growing number of Singapore’s mega-churches preaching a "prosperity gospel" that blends spiritual and material aspirations.
The churches have ambitions to turn Singpore into a center for evangelical Christianity and to export their faith to the world. Kong was arrested and charged in 2012 with criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts.
The six church officials were convicted of diverting nearly 37 million in funds to advance the career of Kong's wife, Ho Yeow Sun.
"Evidence points to a finding that they knew they were acting dishonestly, and I am unable to conclude otherwise," Judge See Kee Oon said in convicting the six in a courtroom packed with church supporters.
No date for sentencing has been set. The penalty for criminal breach of trust is a maximum of life sentence. For falsifying accounts, the penalty is a maximum of 10 years in jail and a fine.
Ho has released five Mandarin albums in Taiwan. She broke into the U.S. market in 2003, appearing in several videos.
A video from an English-language single, "China Wine," shows her dancing intimately with rapper Wyclef Jean, sparking criticism that she had betrayed her calling as a Christian pastor.
Ho, the co-founder and executive director of the church, was not charged in the case.
The church, which had around 17,000 members last year according to an annual report, has stuck by its leader. It held a prayer session for Kong and others on Tuesday night and Ho issued a message of support after the court ruling.
"Thank you for your unwavering faithfulness in loving God and loving one another. More than ever before, let’s have a unity that is unbreakable," she said on the church website.