SINGAPORE, July 13 — Two more men, a boatman and a private tour guide, pleaded guilty today to helping former City Harvest Church (CHC) fund manager Chew Eng Han make his unsuccessful bid to flee the country on a motorised sampan in February.
Boatman Tan Poh Teck, 53, who admitted to abetting Chew to illegally leave the country, was sentenced to 27 weeks’ jail. Two other similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
Meanwhile, Tan Kim Ho, a Malaysian also known as Rayson Tan, was given six months’ jail. The 42-year-old had made arrangements for Chew to escape Singapore from Pulau Ubin on February 21.
Chew, 57, had tried to flee Singapore a day before he was due to start serving a jail sentence of three years and four months. He had been convicted earlier — along with five other former CHC leaders, including church founder Kong Hee — for criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts involving more than S$50 million (RM150 million) of church funds.
Chew and Tan Poh Teck were arrested by Police Coast Guard officers at about 8.47am on February 21, some 2.4 nautical miles east of the Pulau Ubin Main Jetty. Chew had about S$5,000 in cash and fishing equipment on him.
In April, the first man to be dealt with in relation to Chew’s escape bid, Khoo Kea Leng, was also sentenced to six months’ jail. Chew had approached the 46-year-old Malaysian to ask if he could help him get to Johor Baru illegally.
Khoo then asked his friend Rayson Tan if he knew anyone who could help. The other Malaysian replied that he could arrange for Chew to unlawfully leave Singapore via a boat for S$8,000.
Khoo told Chew of this arrangement, and they agreed on paying S$12,000 for Chew to flee Singapore. Khoo would keep S$4,000 for himself, give S$4,000 to Rayson Tan, and pay Tan Poh Teck S$4,000 for taking Chew to Malaysia.
The evening before the botched escape, Khoo collected S$8,000 in cash from Chew in the vicinity of Block 75 Marine Drive. He also told Chew to give the remaining S$4,000 to a “second boatman” who would take Chew to Malaysia.
Khoo then called Rayson Tan, who advised Chew — in order to avoid detection — to prepare a cap and fishing equipment so it seemed like he was going fishing. Khoo suggested to Chew that he should buy a fishing rod and some fishing equipment from Mustafa Shopping Centre.
Khoo left Singapore through the Woodlands Checkpoint that day and paid Rayson Tan his share at a coffee shop in Taman Sentosa, Johor Baru.
Rayson Tan was only arrested in Malaysia almost two months later on April 13, and handed over to the Singapore police the next day.
Separately, at about 10pm on the day before Chew attempted to escape, boatman Tan Poh Teck received a call from one “Lao Bai”. Tan Poh Teck also owns a fish farm off Pulau Ubin.
Lao Bai instructed Tan Poh Teck to pick Chew up from Changi Village the next day and take him to the northeast part of the sea off Pulau Ubin, where Chew would get on Lao Bai’s boat to illegally enter Malaysia. Tan Poh Teck would receive S$1,000 if it worked out.
The next day, at about 7am, Chew’s elder brother, Chew Eng Soon, 61, took his younger brother from his home to Changi Village. They then parted ways.
The older Chew was also arrested on the same day as his sibling, but was not charged.
Following that, as Police Coast Guard officers were patrolling the Changi Village area, Tan Poh Teck told Chew to meet him at the Pulau Ubin Main Jetty instead.
Chew took a bumboat to Pulau Ubin and called Tan Poh Teck when he reached the jetty. Tan then picked Chew up in the motorised sampan, and they managed to travel some distance before being intercepted.
According to court documents, the boatman had also helped two other men, Goh Chun Kiat and Shanker Mahalingam, illegally leave Singapore last year.
On the morning of August 17 last year, Tan Poh Teck transported Goh on a motorised boat from a beach near Changi to the vicinity of a fish farm near Pulau Ubin. Later that year, he transported Shanker using a motorised boat from a beach near the PA Water Venture outlet at Changi to around the same area.
Both men then took another boat that left for Malaysia.
Tan Poh Teck and Rayson Tan could each have been jailed up to two years and fined S$6,000.
Tan Poh Teck will begin serving his sentence on Monday (July 16) and is currently out on S$25,000 bail.
Chew began serving his sentence for criminal breach of trust on March 1. He currently faces two charges of attempting to leave Singapore from an unauthorised point of departure without reasonable course, and attempting to defeat the course of justice.
His case is fixed for a fourth pre-trial conference next Thursday (July 19). — TODAY