Man pleads guilty to throwing Molotov cocktail at flat on loan shark's behalf

SINGAPORE - On the orders of a loan shark, a young man flung a lit Molotov cocktail at the front door of his neighbour's flat, which caused a stationary electric bicycle nearby to explode.

The debtor's father and younger sister, who were inside the sixth-storey unit in Jurong West, climbed out of their master bedroom window and stood on a ledge to escape the blaze.

One of their neighbours was taken to hospital after suffering burn injuries and smoke inhalation while walking down a flight of stairs.

Lu Mingduo, 20, who threw the Molotov cocktail, pleaded guilty in court on Monday (Dec 3) to acting on behalf of an unlicensed moneylender.

The court heard that at about 11pm on Aug 7, the loan shark, known only as "Sunny", called Lu's home phone, claiming that one of the young man's next door neighbours had borrowed some money from him.

Sunny threatened to target Lu if he did not harass the debtor. Court documents did not state how the loan shark found Lu's home phone number.

Sunny instructed Lu on how to make the Molotov cocktail. At around 5pm the next day, Lu did as he was told.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Shana Poon said: "This caused the entire corridor to be encapsulated with fire. Upon seeing the fire escalate, the accused ran downstairs away from the scene."

DPP Poon said that the occupants in the targeted flat, the debtor's 64-year-old father and 13-year-old sister, were later rescued by Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers.

The court was also told that another man, Mr Chua Kim Leng, 51, who lived on the 10th storey, heard the explosion and decided to leave the premises when smoke entered his home.

He did not take a lift and was walking down a flight of stairs when he was overcome by smoke and intense heat at an eighth-storey landing.

SCDF officers eventually put out the fire and Mr Chua was taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. He was transferred to the Singapore General Hospital burns unit later that day, suffering from injuries including burns to his face, toes and upper arms, and was discharged on Aug 17.

The court heard that the total estimated cost incurred by Jurong-Clementi Town Council for restoration works following the blaze came up to more than $10,000.

The fire also caused about $5,000 in damages to the sixth-storey flat. Lu has made no restitution.

District Judge Ong Hian Sun has called for a report to assess Lu's suitability for reformative training and the case has been adjourned to Dec 10.

Offenders sentenced for reformative training must spend between 18 months and three years in a reformative training centre. They must also follow a strict regimen that includes foot drills and counselling.