Update 24 June 2010: Singapore Controversy Talked About on LA Weekly.
Singapore’s City Harvest Church Controversy Comes to the Hollywood Hills
By Patrick Range McDonald, Tuesday, Jun. 22 2010 @ 8:30AM Comments (28)
Singaporean Pop Star Sun Ho
Unbeknown to many Hollywood Hills residents, a major, developing controversy involving a wealthy Singapore minister and his widely influential mega-church has come to their posh neighborhood.
Over the past few weeks, City Harvest Church pastor Kong Hee, a Christian leader in the Charismatic Movement who oversees more than 40 affiliates in such places as Singapore, Taiwan, and Indonesia, has been the focus of a police probe in Singapore for the possible misuse of church funds.
Now Hee’s questionable financial dealings may be surfacing in L.A.
Hee’s pop star wife, singer Ho Yeow Sun, who’s better known as Sun Ho, is renting a Hollywood Hills mansion for $20,000 per month, according to The New Paper.
Asian journalists, who have jumped on the story, don’t know if anything is illegal about the expensive accommodations, but it’s certainly a huge public relations gaffe for the embattled Hee and City Harvest Church.
The New Paper notes that the Hollywood Hills property is worth $5.6 million and Sun Ho’s neighbors are believed to be Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The singer is reportedly living at the mansion with her son, a nanny, her assistant and several family members.
The New Paper recently visited the Hollywood Hills and “spotted a black SUV and a black Mercedes Benz CLK550 driving in and out of the estate, which has four buildings in all.”
Sun Ho, one of the co-founders of City Harvest Church, had also been questioned by law enforcement officials in Singapore for more than eight hours, The New Paper reports.
I discovered that Sun Ho has a Vlog (video blog) on Youtube and the latest video was uploaded 11 months ago.
I am embarrassed to admit I do not have an aversion to tabloid trashy news and I am guilty of indulging in them, especially celebrity gossip sites like D-Listed and Celebrity Baby Scoop, which are two of my favorites. My partner constantly guilt trips me about indulging in this ‘kaypoh’ (Singlish for nosy), ‘Sticky Beak’ (Aussie for nosy – which my cousin D just taught me) habit. Whenever I’m at a magazine rack at the tabloid section there are a whole load of women browsing, but hardly any men. It’s like a hobby we gravitate towards because with celebrities there are other interesting things like fashion, design and the latest trends. But maybe the men secretly like it but don’t want to disclose it. I have seen them flip through our magazines in the privacy of the home but not at the bookstores. Even the mainstream news reports what was previously considered trashy news. I guess we all secretly yearn for the fabulous life.
(Image: Google of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Hollywood Home)
Being sort of a Brangeloonie, it kind of peaked my interest when I read somewhere that Sun Ho, who is in Singapore now with her husband Kong Hee who is under investigation by authorities, used to live in the same area as Brad and Angelina Jolie. I don’t know how far this is true, but reports that church members are unfazed by her lavish lifestyle as reported in The Straits Times today:
Details of her lifestyle in the US, where she has been pursuing her music career since 2003, include living in a plush $28,000-a-month mansion in Los Angeles and two luxury cars.
Her supporters have defended her way of life, with one netizen saying that ‘she is doing so well … if Brad Pitt can stay (in the same area) why can’t she?’. He went on to say that people should ‘be proud of her’.
Another netizen asked others who were critcising her to ‘keep their comments to themselves’ and added that ‘both of them have worked so hard and put in so much effort in building up a church’.
But many others also questioned where she got the money to fund her lavish lifestyle and her billing as a top entertainer.
Ho is currently back in Singapore assisting in the ongoing probe into her husband’s church over alleged misuse of funds.
Yahoo News which is quoted by the Straits Times reports more fully on it:
Imagine living in a S$28,000-a-month rented estate where famous Hollywood celebrities such as Paris Hilton’s sister Nicky, “Ugly Betty” star America Ferrera and British singer Leona Lewis are your neighbours.
If luck is on your side, you could even cross paths with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who are also said to own a property in the vicinity.
Sounds too good to be true?
The Hollywood Hills estate is the place singer Ho Yeow Sun, 40, popularly known as Sun Ho, calls home since she moved to Los Angeles for her music career.
She is the wife of Reverend Kong Hee, 45, and co-founder of City Harvest Church and has been commuting between Singapore and the U.S. since 2003.
According to The New Paper, the Hollywood mansion Ho has been renting for the past year is listed for sale at S$7.7 million. It’s reported that Ho lives there with her 5-year-old son, Dayan, an assistant, a nanny and her relatives.
The profile of residents in the neighbourhood is said to comprise millionaires and high-profile businessmen who like the quiet, peaceful and well-policed area with a low crime rate.
The report’s detailed description also indicates that the dark green Spanish Mediterranean-style building Ho is renting stands out from the rest of the properties in the area due to its large size.
The estate stands on 29,000 sq ft of land or about a third of a football field. It’s made up of a main house, three self-contained structures, with quarters for a butler, nanny and maid. Not only does it boast a swimming pool, a sundeck and a two-car garage, its driveway still has space for another 9 cars.
The total built-up area of the estate is 6,766 sq ft or about the size of 5 five-room HDB flats, while the 4,135 sq ft main house has four bedrooms.
The paper also said the housing agent in charge of the property described Kong Hee’s wife as “Singapore’s top singer and entertainer” while a neighbour said she was very “sophisticated and seems traditional” as she often hosts gatherings during special occasions like Chinese New Year.
Back in Singapore, the couple also made some big property moves through the years.
They started off in a five-room HDB flat in Tampines which was purchased at S$127,000 before selling it for S$420,000. They then moved to a unit at Horizon Towers costing S$1 million in River Valley before selling it off to buy a new apartment at The Suites at Central on Devonshire Road, said to be worth about S$2.6 million.
Basically if Sun Ho and Kong Hee only used their own money and not church funds, they will be off the hook but if church funds were touched they are gonna be in huge trouble with the authorities and the poor people who donated, including the unemployed.
Here’s a video I stumbled upon in Youtube of Sun Ho hobnobbing with celebs at Fashion Week in 2005. I found it hilarious that the person who produced the video kept tagging Nicky Hilton as celebrity afraid that no one would know who she is. In this clip Sun Ho is seen posing with Norah Jones and Chris North as well. Now that impressed me and those are real celebrities.
I’m guilty of being not particularly religious, but I do find it hard to swallow that materialism and religion can co-exsit. If she was not a pastor’s wife this issue wouldn’t even come to mind.