42-year-old, Lee Sze Yong, was found guilty of kidnapping the elderly mother of Sheng Siong supermarket chain founder Lim Hock Chee and has been sentenced to life imprisonment and three strokes of the cane.
This is the first kidnap-for-ransom case in Singapore in more than a decade.
Lee was high in debt with S$200,000 in loans from banks, friends and both legal and illegal moneylenders. He then hatched up a plan to commit a kidnap more than two years before the act, in hope that he, his mother and his former partner, Heng Chen Boon who lived in a flat at Hougang Street 51, could have a better life.
On 8 January 2014, Lee approached Mdm Ng Lye Poh, who was 79-year-old, at an overhead bridge in Hougang Avenue 2 at about 11.30am and told her that her son had fell in the office. He then offered to drive her to see him.
Mdm Ng complied and got into the car. She was then taken to Seletar camp where she was then being blindfolded. Mr Lim was then informed of the ransom of $20 million.
Heng joined in Lee at his rented car at Punggol End. Heng was then told not to ask questions about who was the elderly. Heng was told by Lee that Mdm Ng had something to do with his private investigation work, as he testified that Lee was a part-time investigator.
Lee drove Mdm Ng around for 12 hours. Later at night, he asked Heng to go to Sembawang Park to meet them. He then confessed that he had kidnapped Mdm Ng and asked Heng to look after her while he went to take the ransom.
Mr Lim, who had since made a police report, dropped a bag of cash at a tree in the park at around 11pm, as instructed by Lee. The amount of the ransom had been negotiated to $2 million under the guidance of the negotiators.
Lee then dropped Mdm Ng off at a bus stop near Seletar Camp.
The police arrested the duo shortly after and Lee led the Police to a bushes where he had thrown the bag.
In the Court, the prosecutor said that Lee had shortlisted potential targets by scanning through Forbes magazine’s “Singapore’s Richest” list and profiles of local companies. Lee then started to keep tabs on Mr Lim and his family members in 2013 after learning that he was worth around S$500 million.
Lee pleaded guilty to the acts. However, he disputed the mental elements of the offence. In Court, he maintained the he would have released Mdm Ng by the end of the same night even if Mr Lim refused to pay the ransom.
Mr Selva K. Naidu, Lee’s lawyer, had argued that Lee was not guilty under the Kidnapping Act as he had intended to release the elderly regardless of whether he received the ransom.
Prosecutors David Khoo and Zhuo Wenzhao had argued earlier that Lee settled for S$2 million so as not to expose himself to more risk, not because he felt pity for the old woman.
Therefore, Justice Chan rejected Lee’s contention. He said that the defence’s interpretation of the law was “unduly restrictive” and “untenable”.
Heng took the stand as a prosecution witness. He was sentenced to three years’ jail last year after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of helping Lee to abduct Mdm Ng. Heng was then released from prison in January this year on remission.
Lee wrote a letter to the judges which consist of three pages. In the letter, he said that he regrets the hurt that he had caused, knowing the pain that might have occurred since he also has a mother the same age as Mdm Ng.
He also asked for forgiveness to Mdm Ng, saying that given a choice, he would like to spare her from testifying as it may cause her a traumatic experience.
Lee stated that he regrets his decision for not asking for medical assistance to help him manage with the stress that he faced. Instead, he chose to follow his hallucination then went to do the abduction.
In the end, Lee pleads the judge to impose death penalty instead deprivation of liberty for the rest of his life.
“I had ruined my life. By dying, I hope that I have repaid my debt and to be at peace,” he wrote.