Man gets six years' jail for 1989 gang robbery

Malaysian fugitive, who was extradited here last year, robbed car dealership with 4 others

A 54-year-old Malaysian man who took part in a gang robbery at a second-hand car dealership nearly 30 years ago was jailed for six years yesterday.

Thoo Ing Lai, who is self-employed, was 27 at the time of the 1989 gang robbery. Four people at Eng Chee Trading Company were blindfolded, gagged and bound, with cash and items totalling $29,000 taken from them.

Thoo admitted to two gang robbery charges, with three other charges taken into consideration. He was arrested in Malaysia last year and extradited here on April 17 last year.

A district court heard that Thoo and one of his accomplices had entered the premises of the car dealership at Hokkien Kong Huay Building, in Upper Bukit Timah Road, on March 2, 1989. They told Mr Ang Tek Hing, a partner and manager of the firm, that they wanted to buy a Mazda car.

While they were negotiating, three other accomplices came in and said they were friends of the two men.

Shortly later, the first accomplice gave the command for the robbery to commence.

He took an object which appeared to be a short-barrel revolver and pointed it at Mr Ang, demanding that he unlock the safe. One of the robbers then took away the cash in the safe.

Mr Ang's younger brother, Mr Ang Teio Waet, had cash and property amounting to $10,046 taken from him. A staff member was also robbed of cash.

The older Mr Ang resisted when the first accomplice tried to take his gold chain and was hit on the head.

Thoo approached the Angs' pregnant niece, blindfolded and bound her before removing her gold chain worth $360.

The five fled in their car and left for Johor Baru. The four unknown men are still at large.

In mitigation, Thoo's lawyer Lim Poh Choo said her client was living in Johor Baru with his girlfriend in 1989 when he met the other men at a gambling den.

On learning that he spoke Hokkien, they told Thoo that they wished to buy a car in Singapore and needed his help to negotiate the price.

They offered him $300 and Thoo agreed to accompany the men to Singapore.

The lawyer said her client, who has been in ill health in recent years, was deeply regretful over the robbery and had unwittingly been a part of it.

He did not profit from the robbery and was a victim of circumstance, she added.

The maximum penalty for gang robbery is 20 years' jail and caning of at least 12 strokes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2016, with the headline 'Man gets six years' jail for 1989 gang robbery'. Print Edition | Subscribe