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Singapore City Harvest megachurch leader Chew Eng Han 'tries to flee by sea'

Former fund manager Chew Eng Han, arriving at the State Courts in (21 Oct 2015) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Chew Eng Han and five others were convicted of misappropriating millions of dollars from the megachurch.

A Singaporean man convicted in a megachurch fraud case was caught trying to escape by sea before starting his prison sentence, police say.

Chew Eng Han was found in a small boat heading towards Malaysia, police say, a day before he was to turn himself in after exhausting the appeals process.

He and a second man in the boat say they were on a fishing expedition.

Chew and five others were convicted of misappropriating millions of dollars from the City Harvest Church in 2015.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Chew Eng Han (left) and five others were found guilty in the case

Investment committee member Chew was sentenced to three years and four months. After losing his final challenge, the 57-year-old was due to begin his jail term on 22 February, after the Lunar New Year holiday.

A police statement said that preliminary investigations suggested Chew and the other man in the boat were "attempting to depart Singapore illegally," said a police statement.

As well as fishing gear, the men were carrying S$5,000 ($3,800; £2,700) in cash and three mobile phones.

The scandal was the biggest corruption case Singapore had seen in years.

Much of the S$50m ($35m; £23m) was used to promote the pop music career of the church pastor's wife, Sun Ho.

The defendants had argued Ms Ho's pop music career was a way of reaching out to non-Christians.

Sun Ho herself was not accused of wrongdoing.

She and her husband Kong Hee founded the church in 1989. It is one of Singapore's wealthiest evangelical churches, with an estimated 30,000 members in Singapore and 48 affiliates in countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Taiwan, Brunei and Australia.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The church has said it was using Ms Ho's (centre) music career to reach non-Christians

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