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Saturday, 11 January 2014

Singapore cops solve rare kidnap case within hours

Safe and sound: Ng resting at home after her kidnapping ordeal. -The Straits Times/Asia News Network

Safe and sound: Ng resting at home after her kidnapping ordeal. -The Straits Times/Asia News Network

SINGAPORE: Two men who allegedly abducted the 79-year-old mother of a supermarket tycoon for ransom have been arrested and charged.

Lee Sze Yong, 41, is accused of abducting Ng Lye Poh on Wednesday between 10.30am and 1.02pm along Hougang Avenue 2, with intent to hold her for ransom. His accomplice, Heng Chen Boon, 50, is said to have helped him confine the victim in a vehicle between 8.30pm and midnight.

The court granted the prosecution’s request for the two Singaporeans to be remanded in police custody for further investigations. The case against them will be heard again on Jan 17.

The men face the death penalty or life in jail if convicted for the offence. Lee, who is the younger of the two, may also be caned.

Ng was released unhurt shortly after her son, Lim Hock Chee – who founded the Sheng Siong supermarket chain in 1985 – paid a S$2mil (RM5.2mil) ransom just before midnight on Wednesday.

She was kidnapped earlier that day after a trip to a nearby market and taken by car, while blindfolded and bound, to an unknown place.

The suspects were arrested by the police at about 1am, an hour or so after Lim had dropped off the ransom under a tree in Sembawang Park.

The S$2mil ransom – which was negotiated down from $20mil (RM52mil) – was recovered at the park after the arrest.

The older suspect was said to be a credit card promoter and the younger man, an odd-job worker.

There have only been three other cases of kidnapping for ransom reported in Singapore over the last 13 years, all of which were solved by the police.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong commended the police for the swift arrest.

“Great job by the Singapore Police Force,” said Lee in a Facebook post. “Glad Madam Ng is safe and sound. Also glad that her son ... alerted the police as soon as it happened, so that the police could rescue Madam Ng and solve the case.”

Meanwhile, Ng is resting at home and will not be attending a scheduled doctor’s appointment.

Her son told reporters camped outside his Jalan Arif home earlier that Ng is still resting – a day after she was released by the two kidnappers – and will miss her medical review at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

Lim said he would not be letting his mother venture beyond the house after she was abducted on Wednesday morning while she was on her way home from a nearby market.

The half a dozen reporters and photographers were waiting to catch a glimpse of Ng or interview her since news of her kidnapping broke on Thursday.

On a related matter, withdrawing large amounts of cash from a bank in Singapore is not at all difficult, say people in the banking industry.

However, they noted that it is rare for a customer to withdraw millions of dollars at short notice. Clients usually notify the bank a few days or even weeks in advance to get the cash ready.

This question of how easy it is to withdraw a large amount of cash from the bank arose after Lim paid the S$2mil ransom.

The Straits Times understands that a request to take out S$2mil can be done in a few hours, as long as the customer has the funds in his bank account.

He or she would have to produce his identification card to the teller for verification purposes.

Upon confirmation that he is the rightful account holder and that there is sufficient bank balance, the teller will check internally if there is enough cash at hand to dispense the money.

If the bank branch does not have sufficient cash at hand or bills in the denomination specified by the customer, the teller will advise the customer of two options.

He may go to another branch that has the cash amount or quantity of notes asked for. Or he can wait in the banking hall while the bank arranges for the cash to be delivered from elsewhere.

Bankers say it is unusual for a customer to walk into a bank to withdraw a large amount in cash. Customers who have large amount of money deposited with a bank are usually high net-worth clients.

They will be assigned relationship managers or private bankers to service their needs, including processing requests for big cash withdrawals and having the money ready for delivery when the clients turn up at the bank. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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