$352k extortion bid: Man jailed, caned

Benjamin Ling was jailed for two years with one stroke of the cane for plotting to extort US$250,000.
Benjamin Ling was jailed for two years with one stroke of the cane for plotting to extort US$250,000.

A former mobile phone shop worker conspired to extort US$250,000 (S$352,000) from his friend's fiancee after a money exchange deal went sour.

Yesterday, Benjamin Ling Jialiang, 26, was jailed for two years with one stroke of the cane, after he pleaded guilty to scheming with two women - Fong Ling Ling, 46, and Judy Wee Aye Fong, 52 - to extort the money.

Ling, the first of the trio to be dealt with, committed the crime in Singapore on Feb 23 last year. It all started with a supposed currency exchange involving 25 million Venezuelan bolivars (S$3.5 million).

Wee knew a Chinese national named Huang Dong, who wanted to change the money into either US or Singapore currency. Huang, based in China, asked intermediaries, including Ling, to help him - in return for a commission.

Wee then allegedly introduced Ling's friend, Mr Kenneth Ng Chee How, 28, to Huang.

Later, a Malaysian moneylender named Ali also got involved in the plan. He agreed to change the 25 million bolivars into US$1 million (S$1.4 million). This amount was then supposed to be shared among the people involved, including Ling, Wee and Mr Ng, with Huang's share at US$250,000.

But Ali disappeared with the bolivars after he got the cash.

Mr Ng and his brother Gabriel Ng Chia How, 27, went to Penang on Feb 21 last year to find Ali. When they arrived there the next day, they were bundled into a car and held captive at Georgetown Hotel.

Two men introduced themselves to the brothers as debt collectors, and told them to pay US$250,000.

"Kenneth Ng was then instructed to contact any persons who could provide US$250,000, in exchange for the release of Gabriel Ng and himself," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Christine Liu.

Mr Kenneth Ng called his father and his fiancee, Ms Crystal Lim Chew Kwan, 30, for help.

It is unclear if Huang was behind the Penang abductions, but DPP Liu told the court that Huang had asked Wee to contact Ms Lim for the money. Ling was present during the call.

Ling, Wee and Fong were arrested on Feb 24 last year in a joint operation between Singapore and Malaysian police. The Ng brothers were rescued unharmed, with no money delivered.

Ling could have been jailed for up to five years and caned.

Huang remains at-large.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2017, with the headline '$352k extortion bid: Man jailed, caned'. Print Edition | Subscribe