HONG KONG • A member of a gang that abducted a Hong Kong heiress for a multimillion-dollar ransom has been sentenced to 12 years in jail after what the judge described as a "terrible ordeal" for the victim.
Ms Queenie Rosita Law, 29, granddaughter of the late textile tycoon Law Ting Pong who founded the Bossini clothing chain, was abducted from her house in Hong Kong in April last year.
She was held in a mountain cave for three days before her family paid a ransom of HK$28 million (S$4.9 million) for her release.
Zheng Xingwang, 30, was the only suspect on trial in Hong Kong, and he pleaded guilty to one count of forcibly taking or detaining a person with an intent to procure a ransom. Eight other men have appeared in court on the mainland, where they have also pleaded guilty and are awaiting a verdict.
"The offence of kidnapping is a wicked and heinous crime," said judge Kevin Zervos as he sentenced Zheng at the city's High Court.
Ms Law and her boyfriend were asleep at her house in Clearwater Bay when a gang of six mainland Chinese men raided the house, tied them up and put adhesive tape over their mouths, the court heard.
They stole about HK$3 million worth of jewellery and cash from two safes, after forcing Ms Law to give them the combinations. They then tied her to one of the gang members and carried her on foot to a hillside cave 11/2 hours away. Her boyfriend was told to notify her father of the ransom demand.
Zheng provided logistical support and supplies, the court heard.
His lawyer argued that he was not involved in the robbery at Ms Law's home.
"I see no justification to distinguish his role from the others as he clearly came to Hong Kong with them with the sole purpose of carrying out this kidnapping," Judge Zervos said.
Zheng's thumbprints were found on one of the brown envelopes containing the ransom money.
Throughout her ordeal, Ms Law had feared for her life even though she was not physically harmed, Judge Zervos said.
"When she was found by two police officers, she was trembling with fear... Queenie went through a harrowing experience."
In court, Zheng, who is from Guizhou and married with a two-year-old daughter, was expressionless as he received his sentence. He said in a letter to the court that he was "remorseful" and apologised to Ms Law's family.
He went on trial in Hong Kong because he was caught in the city. The other members of the gang were arrested on the mainland.
Hong Kong police had embarked on a massive operation to hunt down the suspected kidnappers, deploying hundreds of heavily armed officers, helicopters and marine vessels, and setting up roadblocks.
Almost all of the money has been recovered, including some that was buried on hillsides near the cave where she was taken to.
A tent was set up in the cave, and the heiress was given fast food from McDonald's, rice boxes and bread, the court heard.
Judge Zervos described it as a case of premeditated kidnapping which was "meticulously planned and executed".
While kidnappings are rare in Hong Kong, there have been several high-profile cases, including the abduction of tycoon Li Ka Shing's son in 1996. He was released after his father reportedly paid a HK$1 billion ransom.