This combination photo shows City Harvest Church's members arriving at the State Courts in Singapore. File picture: Edgar Su/Reuters

Singapore - A Singaporean man involved in a multi-million dollar church fraud scandal and who tried to escape prison by fleeing in a boat was Tuesday ordered to start serving his sentence this week, local media reported.

In an urgent hearing court hearing, the five-judge Court of Appeal ruled that Chew Eng Han, an ex-fund manager for the City Harvest Church, would start serving his jail sentence on Thursday.

That is provided no further remands for his assistance in the investigation into his escape attempt are ordered, the Straits Times reported.

Chew, alongside five other church leaders, was found guilty in 2015 of misusing 50 million dollars of church funds to promote the singing career of the wife of the church's founder.

Chew had been sentenced to three years and four months' imprisonment for his role, and was due to begin serving his sentence last Thursday. 

However, he was arrested around 2 kilometres off shore by the police coast guard on Wednesday along with another man as they attempted to flee on a motorized sampan with about 5 000 Singapore dollars in cash and fishing equipment.

Police said they appeared to have been attempting to depart Singapore illegally for Malaysia.

The arrest was the latest chapter in a saga that has gripped the nation state for the last five years.

A prosecution appeal to reinstate longer jail sentences for the accused after their jail terms were cut almost in half by the High Court in 2017 was rejected by the court earlier this year, drawing public criticism and a government pledge to amend a law that allowed for shorter sentences.