Leaders of Catholic church to testify against priest

For the first time in its history, the highest echelons of the Roman Catholic Church in Singapore are being called to the criminal court to testify against one of their own.

Archbishop Nicholas Chia and his predecessor, Archbishop Gregory Yong, as well as the Church's No 2 man, Monsignor Francis Lau, are listed as prosecution witnesses in the trial of Joachim Kang Hock Chai, a priest accused of misappropriating S$5.1 million of church money.

The top church men are expected to shed light on the role of the priest in the financial administration of the Church, during the month-long trial that begins on Tuesday.

Kang, 55, is accused of moving sums from S$4,638 to S$1 million from the church's account to his own, when he was the parish priest of the Church of St Teresa between July 1994 and February 2002.

Some S$300,000 of the money is said to be meant for the church's building fund.

His arrest in April last year created ripples in Catholic circles, as Kang, a trained lawyer, is a high-level cleric who is also one of eight church judges here.

Among other things, he is said to have used some of the money to buy a S$835,000 private apartment in Teresa Ville, which he registered in his name and that of Ms Mabel Chia Li Ling, his god-daughter.

His relationship with Ms Chia, for whom he also bought a computer, will be scrutinised during the trial.

Kang, who was the parish priest of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Tampines, has, since his arrest, been on leave of absence from the church.