Photo of Kong Hee from CNA

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) yesterday (Apr 10) announced that the government will  get the High Court to explain their ruling on the City Harvest Church’s corruption case under a process called Criminal Reference. Specifically, the AGC is seeking the High Court’s definition of “agent” which led to a reduced sentence for the scam artist pastor and gang.

According to AGC’s press release:

“If the Court of Appeal answers the questions referred in accordance with the Prosecution’s submissions, the Prosecution intends to request that the Court of Appeal … reinstate the appellants’ original convictions under section 409 of the Penal Code and make necessary and consequential orders in relation to the sentences given.”

However, the AGC is basically saying they are unable to appeal Kong Hee’s sentence and hence could only go for the milder approach of “seeking clarification”.

Based on cases where Criminal Reference was invoked, the AGC has never succeeded in tabling over sentences. In 2014, a Criminal Reference was called for high profile corruption case involving the National Parks Board over the procurement of Brompton bicycles, but the sentences were not changed. The Singapore Court then, even said:

“The Criminal Reference procedure should not be invoked as a backdoor appeal.”

The AGC’s actions today contradicted to Law Minister K Shanmugam’s earlier chest-thumping media statements like “no one is above the law” or “the matter is not over yet”.