#Stayhome reads: From Anthony Ler to Sunshine Empire, here are Singapore's most shocking crimes over the decades

SINGAPORE - Earlier this week, news of a man's death captured media's attention in Singapore and abroad. The 72-year-old's funeral in Denmark was even live streamed on Facebook. 

Nicknamed Mr Big in Denmark for his ties to organised crime and drug smuggling, Roland Tan Tong Meng was one of Singapore's most notorious fugitives, long wanted for a murder which happened in 1969. He had suffered a heart attack and died in the middle of a dinner party in Copenhagen - where he had moved to after years on the run. 

Over the decades, Singapore has witnessed other shocking crimes that have made headlines.

Today, we recount five chilling cases that were previously published in an e-book by The Straits Times and the Singapore Police Force titled Guilty As Charged: 25 Crimes That Have Shaken Singapore Since 1965

The case of Mimi Wong (1970): The dance hostess who murdered her lover’s wife

It was the night of Christmas 1969. Japanese mechanical engineer Hiroshi Watanabe decided it was time for his wife Ayako to meet Mimi Wong Weng Siu, the dance hostess who had been his lover in Singapore for the last three years. Mrs Watanabe had flown into Singapore with their three young children only two days before, to live with her husband here.

But Wong was writhing in jealousy. She was convinced that her affair with Mr Watanabe would fizzle out now that his wife was in town. 

On the evening of Jan 6, Wong went to the Watanabes’ home with her estranged husband, Sim Woh Kum, and stabbed Mrs Watanabe to death in the bathroom in front of her eldest daughter.

Wong later became the first woman to get the death penalty in Singapore.

FIND OUT HOW SHE PLANNED THE MURDER

The case of Lim Ban Lim (1972): The most wanted gunman in Singapore and Malaysia in 1960s

He launched his criminal career with a hold-up in 1958, when he robbed several thousand dollars worth of cigarettes. 

But in 1963, Lim Ban Lim went from small-time crook to big-time robber after he targeted The Straits Times’ printing department at Anson Road with three accomplices. Shots were fired and he got away with $30,000 in payroll money.

His biggest haul in Singapore was probably the $156,000 he robbed from the First National City Bank in Collyer Quay in 1966.

Known as Singapore’s most wanted gunman, he got away with at least $2.5 million in his nine-year criminal career on both sides of the Causeway. He eluded police for years, sometimes using forged documents, and other times dressing as a woman. 

HERE'S HOW HE MET HIS END IN 1972

Nick Leeson, rogue trader (1995): The man who brought down Britain’s oldest merchant bank

At the age of 28, Nick Leeson brought down 233-year-old Barings — Britain’s oldest merchant bank.

He joined the bank as a 22-year-old, and built his reputation through his work in Jakarta. When he was later posted to Singapore, he earned the label of being a “whiz-kid” trader who was supposedly making the firm millions, accounting for a large chunk of its profits.

In reality, he concealed his losses and unsuccessful trades in a secret account, while showing artificial profits in other Barings trading accounts. 

Eventually, the bank’s losses grew to $2.2 billion, twice-exceeding its capital and reserves. He fled the country as auditors began to catch on, but he was eventually extradited to Singapore, where he was sentenced to 6½ years in prison.

HERE’S HOW HE CREATED A WORLDWIDE FINANCIAL SCANDAL

The case of Anthony Ler (2001): He lured a 15-year-old into killing his wife

In 2001, Anthony Ler Wee Teang attended the wake for his estranged wife Annie Leong Wai Mun. She had died after being stabbed multiple times outside the lift of her Hougang flat.

His display of sorrow at her wake to reporters present was all a big act; he knew exactly who had killed his wife. He had, after all, offered the killer $100,000 and coached him on how to stab her in the neck.

Two days after the wake, he was arrested at his Pasir Ris home at around 10pm. Four hours earlier, the police already had in custody the hitman: a 15-year-old secondary school student.

Ler was hanged in 2002, while his teen accomplice was detained indefinitely at the President’s pleasure. He was granted clemency in 2018 and released after 17 years behind bars.

READ HOW HE INSTRUCTED THE TEEN TO MURDER HIS WIFE

The Sunshine Empire (2006): Singapore’s biggest Ponzi scheme duped investors of millions

For more than a year starting August 2006, thousands of unwitting Singaporeans bought almost 26,000 “lifestyle packages” from Sunshine Empire, ranging from $240 to $12,000. Self-styled entrepreneur James Phang Wah had promised huge returns through his firm’s “revolutionary” investment plan. 

But it was soon revealed to be nothing more than a huge Ponzi scheme.

After the police raided the firm in November 2007, they recovered only $21 million out of more than the nearly $190 million swindled from ordinary Singaporeans, including retirees and students. 

THIS IS HOW HE LURED THESE ‘INVESTORS’

If you enjoyed this week’s selection of stories, share it with your family and friends as you stay calm and beat the virus blues. 

And when you’re ready, get up to date with our coverage on the coronavirus pandemic at str.sg/coronavirus or be a part of our Telegram channel t.me/TheStraitsTimes