SINGAPORE - The man who abducted the elderly mother of Sheng Siong supermarket chain founder Lim Hock Chee will be jailed for life and given three strokes of the cane after his appeal was turned down by the Court of Appeal on Wednesday (March 22).
In the first kidnap-for-ransom case in Singapore in more than a decade, Lee Sze Yong, 42, was found guilty of kidnapping Madam Ng Lye Poh in 2014 by duping her into getting into his car, and then demanding S$20 million in ransom from Mr Lim.
"Even if the accused did have the intention to release the victim by the end of that fateful day... the offence was complete when he abducted the victim to hold her for ransom," said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon in dismissing his appeal against conviction.
Lee had asked to be sentenced to death as he could not bear the thought of "hopeless years ahead" if he was to spend the rest of his life behind bars. But his request was turned down by the High Court and he was sentenced to life imprisonment and three strokes of the cane in December last year.
Lee's sentence was backdated to Jan 9, 2014, the day the sales executive was arrested for abducting Madam Ng, who was then 79, and demanding a $20 million ransom from her son.
In his trial last year, Lee admitted he had harboured plans for years to kidnap the rich in Singapore to clear his debts, which had ballooned to about $200,000. His first target was the children of billionaire investor Peter Lim.
In 2013, he started staking out the Hougang house of the Sheng Siong boss and decided to target Madam Ng after observing her movements.
On the morning of Jan 8, 2014, he approached her at an overhead bridge and asked her in Hokkien if Mr Lim was her son.
After she confirmed that he was, he tricked her into getting into his rented Honda Civic by lying that her son had a fall in the office. She was blindfolded and driven around for 12 hours. Lee phoned Mr Lim and demanded $20 million, but the sum was negotiated down to $2 million.
Madam Ng was released after Mr Lim dropped off a bag with the cash in Sembawang Park.
Lee was arrested in Ang Mo Kio shortly after and led police to the bag and cash, which he had thrown into some bushes at the same park.
While Lee admitted his actions, he disputed the mental element of the offence. He maintained that he would have released the elderly woman that night even if he did not receive the ransom.
During his trial, Lee also admitted that by threatening to expose his relationship with former sexual partner Heng Chen Boon, he got Mr Heng to help him swop cars and guard the victim.
Mr Heng, 52, has served a three- year jail term on a reduced charge of helping Lee abduct Madam Ng.
There have been only three confirmed cases of kidnapping for ransom in the past 10 years, and all perpetrators were arrested and later jailed for life, police said.