3 years' jail for man involved in Sheng Siong kidnapping case

Heng Chen Boon (centre), a credit card promoter, in the police van on Jan 17, 2014. Heng has been charged for the kidnapping of Madam Ng Lye Poh, the mother of Sheng Siong supermarket boss Lim Hock Chee. -- PHOTO: SHIN MIN 
Heng Chen Boon (centre), a credit card promoter, in the police van on Jan 17, 2014. Heng has been charged for the kidnapping of Madam Ng Lye Poh, the mother of Sheng Siong supermarket boss Lim Hock Chee. -- PHOTO: SHIN MIN 

SINGAPORE - A man who was involved in the Sheng Siong kidnapping case - the first kidnap-for-ransom case in over a decade - was sentenced to three years' jail on Monday, after he was convicted on an amended charge.

Heng Chen Boon, 51, pleaded guilty to intentionally aiding Lee Sze Yong to abduct and wrongfully confine Madam Ng Lye Poh - the mother of the supermarket chain's boss, Mr Lim Hock Chee.

Heng, who was unaware of Lee's alleged plans to kidnap Madam Ng, drove the then 79-year-old woman to a spot near Sembawang Park and kept watch over her on Jan 8 last year.

Lee, 42, still faces the kidnapping charge. If convicted, he faces the gallows, or life in prison with caning. His case is before the High Court.

According to court documents, Heng, who was a contract staff for Diner's Club employed to check on credit card machines at retail outlets, lived together with Lee as good friends.

The court on Monday heard details of how the kidnap was allegedly elaborately planned and executed by Lee.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Kavita Uthrapathy said police investigations revealed that Lee - who was working as a retail sales executive with Universal Sovereign Trading and earning about $4,850 a month - had incurred debts of between $150,000 to $200,000 by borrowing money from banks, friends, and both legal and illegal moneylenders.

Sometime in 2011, according to the prosecution, he began to hatch a plan to abduct someone for ransom.

Lee allegedly looked through the Forbes' list of Singapore's richest people, and did research on potential targets online. He also obtained profiles of local companies and directors' addresses from the Bizfile website.

He purportedly conducted surveillance on those he had identified as potential targets, by driving up to their residence and keeping a watch on them and their family members.

After reading up online on how to carry out an abduction, Lee began, sometime in 2011, to allegedly buy items to facilitate his plans. These items included a taser from Bangkok, a Halloween face mask and pepper spray from Kuala Lumpur, false car registration plates from Johor Bahru, and cable ties from Sim Lim Towers.

He also purportedly bought a skin-coloured face mask and chlorofoam online, and a female Malay outfit with headgear in 2013.

According to the prosecution, Lee observed Mr Lim's residence for about six months and had recorded the specific details of how he would kidnap Madam Ng.

On Jan 8, the day of the abduction, Lee allegedly parked a rented car along Hougang Avenue 2, and approached Madam Ng at the foot of an overhead bridge at about 11.30am. He asked her whether Mr Lim was her son and then told her that he had a fall in the office.

Believing Lee was telling the truth, she followed him and got onto the car.

Lee purportedly drove to Seletar Camp, where he stopped and moved into the backseat behind Madam Ng so that he could put a face mask and blindfold on her. Realising she was being abducted, she pleaded with him to let her go.

At about 2.13pm, Lee allegedly made a call to Mr Lim using a Malaysian SIM card and directed Mr Lim to hand over ransom money amounting to $20 million.

Later, Lee purportedly sent an SMS message in Mandarin from the same Malaysian mobile number: "We seek fortune of 20 million (in denominations of 100 and 1,000 bills and not to be serialised)... If you dare to report to the Police or if someone follows us, we can forget about it.

"You will never see your mother again (die together). I have nothing to lose. ... We will contact again for the money tonight."

Later that day, according to the prosecution, when Lee realised the rental timing for the car had expired, he called Heng and asked him to drive Lee's car, a Volkswagen Scirocco, over to Punggol End carpark, where Lee waited.

DPP Kavita said Heng was shocked when he saw Madam Ng with a blindfold over her eyes, but Lee told him not to ask any questions.

Lee purportedly drove his car to various places around Lim Chu Kang cemetery, Kranji and Jurong West, waiting for nightfall, with Madam Ng blindfolded and reclined in the front passenger seat. At some point, the elderly woman, who is diabetic, told Lee she had to take her insulin injection, but he ignored her and carried on driving around, said DPP Kavita.

When Lee called her son at about 7.30pm, Mr Lim, acting under the instructions of the police, negotiated the ransom amount down to $2million.

Lee then asked Heng to meet him at Sembawang Park but, sensing something amiss, Heng confronted him over the abduction. When Lee confessed about the kidnap for a ransom, Heng told him that what he had done was a serious offence and asked Lee to let Madam Ng go, said DPP Kavita.

But Lee told Heng that they were facing financial difficulties and it was too late to back out. Heng suggested selling their flat instead, but Lee decided to go ahead with the plan, said DPP Kavita.

Lee asked Heng to help him keep watch over Madam Ng while he collected the ransom money nearby, and told him that he could leave if he did not want to help. Heng agreed to help, and drove the car with Madam Ng to another road in the vicinity of Sembawang Park.

Mr Lim dropped the ransom money at a specific tree located behind the shelter at the end of Sembawang Park at about 11pm as told to do so by Lee, who watched him from a distance.

Lee later threw the bag of money into some thick vegetation near Cyprus Road before meeting up with Heng.

Lee subsequently dropped off Madam Ng at the bus stop at the entrance of Seletar Camp before calling Mr Lim to pick her up.

A team of police officers from the Criminal Investigation Department arrived at the bus stop at around 12.23 am on Jan 9 to pick her up. Lee and Heng, whose identities had been established by the police earlier, were arrested shortly after.

At about 1.18 am, Lee led police to the ransom money.

For his role in the abduction, Heng could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined; he did not face caning as he is over 50.

There have only been three other cases of kidnapping for ransom reported in Singapore over the last 14 years, all of which were solved by the police.