Category Archives: Selling stolen assets

Kong Hee, charismatic or fraudster?

Photo: Straits Times

Photo: Straits Times, Kong Hee in the middle.

There has been some ruffled feathers in the City Harvest Church after their leader and founder has been found guilty of fraud 20th Nov 2015 in Singapore. He will serve 8 years in prison and has taken with him, 5 of his trusted followers. It all boils down to the question, did he use the Church’s money to fund his wife’s singing career illegally or not? The Judge was clear, it was an illegal use of church funds and handed down a harsh prison sentence on him. A rich man to live in a Singapore prison for 8 years is certainly a challenge, I understand that there is no air-conditioning or TV neither is there exercise more than 1 hour a day, there are no beds, inmates sleep on the floor.

Now the verdict has been handed down after a 2 year trial and review of thousands of files. As noted by the ABC news:

After a two-year trial that captivated Singapore with tales of lavish spending and financial deceit, pastor Kong Hee and five aides were found guilty of diverting $Sg24 million (A$24 million) to finance his wife Sun Ho’s music career, which was portrayed as a religious mission.

The six were also found guilty of misappropriating another $Sg26m from City Harvest Church to cover their tracks, prosecutors said. (

Now is the time to consider the question: is Kong Hee an Arrogant Fraudster or a Likeable Fraudster? And a very interesting case he is too. He is certainly liked by the thousands of churchgoers, but Likeable Fraudsters upon discovery confess to their wrongdoing and never plead ‘not guilty’. They also show a deep and real remorse, so deep that they consider that they are unworthy to live and commit or attempt to commit suicide. This too is missing in the news reports.

Kong Hee does say that he is sorry to his congregation, this was captured by on video.

I am so sorry for all the pain and the turmoil you have had to endure under my leadership, under my watch. You have had to answer questions, and criticisms from family, from friends, from colleagues. Pastor is so very sorry. So so sorry. That you have to endure through all these under my leadership. (

But is this a real apology? Where is the admission of guilt? And what about saying sorry that the $26 million which has been spent, will be returned? Nothing. In fact, this is not a real apology. Reason why? He only apologises to the poor congregation who have been dragged through the limelight by the media. What does a real apology contain? Taking full responsibility of the wrongdoing! That it was wrong and it will never be done again.

In my view, what is happening with this apology is that the congregation was expecting a not guilty verdict and he had to do something to assuage their feelings yet stay in control. In other words, this is not the behaviour of a Likeable Fraudster. I am left with the conclusion that Kong Hee must be an Arrogant fraudster. This will be an unpopular decision with his congregation but not with the whistle-blowers, Chew Eng Han, who was the person who thought up the scheme of how to siphon off funds, and Roland Poon Swee Kay, who blew the whistle on Kong Hee’s behaviour – 12 years ago, and I gather most of the Singaporean community.

And to rub salt into the wounds of the congregation, the acting Pastor ends the apology speech with this.

Thank you Church, I just want to collect God’s tithes and offering. I want to thank you for your love for City Harvest Church… you see there is an envelope that look like this, I want you to just take it out, and put your offering inside, and you can, if you are making a cheque make it payable to ‘City Harvest Church’, I want to encourage you to fulfill your tithe, your building fund. Thank you for your giving, thank you for your love towards City Harvest Church. God loves you, let’s give with a big wide smile. Amen? Praise God. (ibid.)

Photo: Straits Times

Photo: Straits Times

Interestingly Kong Hee has put his penthouse apartment up for sale in July of this year, for Sg$10,000,000. But nothing is mentioned about where the proceeds will go. Kong Hee has been reported to have knocked back offers. It is a jointly financed deal with an Indonesian developer Wahju Hanafi.

A Likeable Fraudster would have accepted anything and repay the debt owed, even though it is far less than was misappropriated.

One thing that I have learnt from this case is that the Arrogant Fraudsters Executive Impression Management can hold tremendous power over many people and rely on their stunning image of success that has worked for them for years, to use again for the future.






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Filed under Arrogant Fraudster, Creating successful image, Do not stop, Selling stolen assets

Herve Falciani: Case of the Disappearing Truth?

Since the news broke Falciani’s escapade has focused on countries getting their hands on the stolen data. However, I wish to comment here on the person: Herve Falciani himself.

Herve Falciani. Photo from:

According to my doctoral research (2010 see  website for more details) it is possible that Falciani is showing signs of the Predator type of fraudster. A Predator (who could have a psychopathic personality) will show the following behaviour:

1)     Their sense of superiority is maintained throughout the post discovery phase: Falciani has given frequent interviews with the media and online, giving his version over the banks and the Swiss Police.

2)     The Predator will adapt the truth to his or circumstances and has no hesitation in doing it. Falciani has changed his story from being a whistleblower to being interrogated by Mossad, to just wanting to expose to HSBC the risks in their data protection system. He also has lied that he only copied the data. In a logic defying statement to the Le Matin Dimanche newspaper he says: “I’m not against banking secrecy,” he told the newspaper. “On the contrary, I say there is none. HSBC clients were deceived, and harmed, because of a lack of computing standards.”

3)     Predators will drag out legal proceedings as long as possible, in a bid to outrun their opponents. The discovery of Falciani’s theft was back in 2007, and the story is not over by any means.

4)     Predators will show no signs of genuine remorse. Falciani has not said he was sorry for the theft from HSBC.

This brings up another issue that most whistleblowers would have copied the data but not stolen it – there is no point, a copy is enough to go public with. Falciani went to several governments to sell his stolen information.

From research by Lynn Clements (2005 Clements, L. 2005. Whistleblowing: Who, what, when, where, why and how? Journal of Forensic Accounting 6 (2): 429-440): “A universal truth about whistleblowers is that all whistleblowers act at moral risk to themselves, and most pay a heavy price. In a year-long discussion group of 12 whistleblowers, all but one lost both his or her job and career, eight lost their homes, seven lost their families, and many suffered from alcoholism and depression at some point after blowing the whistle.”

Rather than seeing Falciani suffering we see him delighting audiences around the world on TV and online.

Finally there is the observation that this man is inconsistent in his recounting of what has happened to him. At best my typology of a malevolent manager would fit, at worst we have a sinister fraudster on our hands.

Easy enough to identify after the horse has bolted…

Predators (and the other type of fraudster) can now be relatively easily uncovered beforehand using screening and profiling techniques. Ideally this would have happened at the point of entry into the organisation – in Falciani’s case in 2006. Then again when he was the senior manager in charge of the migration to a more secure IT environment, achieved circa 2006-07. In this manner an assessment would have discovered a likelihood of the planned theft and internal security and senior management could have minimised the risk. Unfortunately for HSBC, I had not completed my research and these identifiers were not known at that point.


Filed under Arrogant Fraudster, Data theft, Selling stolen assets