The debt-ridden man who abducted the elderly mother of Sheng Siong supermarket chain founder Lim Hock Chee has been sentenced to life imprisonment and three strokes of the cane, in the first kidnap-for-ransom case in Singapore in more than a decade.
Lee Sze Yong, 42, was found guilty of kidnapping Mdm Ng Lye Poh by duping her into getting into his car, and then demanding S$20 million in ransom from Mr Lim.
Lee’s defence lawyers argued at trial that he had intended to release Mdm Ng even if the ransom was not paid, but the argument was dismissed by High Court judge Chan Seng Onn.
Lee, who had racked up some S$200,000 in loans from banks, friends and both legal and illegal moneylenders, hatched his plot more than two years before the act, the court heard in a trial held in late August and September.
Sometime in 2011, the then-retail sales executive wanted to commit kidnapping so that he, his mother and his accomplice Heng Chen Boon could be better off financially. The trio lived in a flat at Hougang Street 51.
Heng, 51, was sentenced to three years’ jail last year after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of helping Lee to abduct Mdm Ng. He was released from prison in January this year on remission.
The court heard that Lee had shortlisted potential targets by scanning through Forbes magazine’s “Singapore’s Richest” list and profiles of local companies. In 2013, Lee started to keep tabs on Mr Lim and his family members after learning that he was worth around S$500 million.
On Jan 8, 2014, he allegedly approached Mdm Ng at an overhead bridge in Hougang Avenue 2 at about 11.30am, told the elderly woman that her son had fallen in the office, and offered to drive her to see him.
Mdm Ng believed and followed Lee, who instead drove a rented car to Seletar Camp, where he blindfolded her. Heng, who met them later in Lee’s car at Punggol End, had asked Lee who the elderly woman but was told not to ask questions. Testifying that Lee was a part-time investigator, Heng said Lee told him that Mdm Ng had something to do with his private investigation work.
Later that night, Heng was asked to go to Sembawang Park, where Lee confessed that he had kidnapped Mdm Ng.
Despite his pleading to let Mdm Ng go, Lee was not dissuaded, and instead asked Heng to watch over the elderly woman while he collected the ransom.
At about 11pm, Mr Lim, who had since made a police report, dropped a bag of cash at a tree in the park, as instructed by Lee.
Lee later dropped Mdm Ng off at a bus stop near Seletar Camp. The police swooped in on the duo shortly after.
Lee could have been hanged.