- Singapore cops solve rare kidnap case within hours
- Two kidnap suspects are lovers
- Singapore monitoring new forms of illicit financing
Posted: 10 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST
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
Posted: 10 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST
THE two men allegedly behind Wednesday's kidnapping for ransom are lovers who have been living together for more than 10 years.
This was revealed by a woman who identified herself as the mother of 41-year-old Lee Sze Yong, the younger of the two suspects who were charged in court yesterday with the abduction of Ng Lye Poh, 79.
Lee's mother, who wanted to be known only as Madam Seow, said her son and 50-year-old Heng Chen Boon – the other suspect – share the Hougang flat with her.
She told reporters, who were outside her flat, that Lee was her only son.
"My son is in trouble, of course I'm very sad," she said.
According to business records, Lee and Heng started a cleaning company called Plus Concept in 1999. But the company was terminated in 2001.
A neighbour, who wanted to be known only as Chu, said she recalled seeing the two men move cleaning equipment such as brooms and mops into a white car some years ago.
Meanwhile, Lim Hock Chee, chief executive of supermarket chain Sheng Siong, and his family come from humble beginnings.
The former farm boy and Jurong Vocation Institute graduate-turned-supermarket tycoon once recalled about his childhood: "Every day after school, I had to clean the pigsties and prepare the pigs' feed."
He was thrown into the media spotlight again after his mother's abduction.
The first Sheng Siong outlet was founded by Mr Lim and his two brothers as a mini-supermarket in Ang Mo Kio back in 1985. Today, the chain has 33 supermarkets.
Lim's brothers, Hock Eng and Hock Leng, continue to serve on Sheng Siong's board, as executive chairman and managing director respectively. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
Posted: 10 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST
SINGAPORE: Asian financial hub Singapore is scrutinising trade in virtual currencies such as Bitcoin as well as precious stones and metals to forestall new forms of illicit financing by criminals and terrorists.
In an inaugural report on money laundering and terrorist financing risks, the city-state said these sectors were identified for further study "as technology evolves and criminals become more sophisticated".
"Authorities will seek to better understand how money laundering and terrorist financing can be carried out through these channels," said the joint report by the finance and home affairs ministries as well as the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
It said the government would "review international best practices, to determine whether any safeguards and mitigating measures are needed".
The report said virtual money and precious metal-backed currencies carry the risk of being abused due to their anonymity, cross-border nature and low transaction costs.
The MAS, which serves as the city-state's central bank "is closely monitoring developments in this area and will consider the need for regulation if necessary", the report said.
Bitcoin, the world's most popular form of electronic money, made headlines last year when US authorities closed the Silk Road website when it was found the currency was being used to buy illegal drugs, forged documents, hacker tools and even the services of hitmen.
The report also said Singapore was monitoring the trade in precious stones and metals.
"There are international typologies on the use of precious stones and metals as a tool to launder money, particularly as a store-of-value to move illicit proceeds easily," it added.
The bank said of 22 sectors that were assessed, the city's vast financial sector remained among the most vulnerable to abuse owing to the large number of transactions that take place and its wide international reach.
Singapore houses the regional offices of some of the world's top financial institutions and its total assets under management are now around S$1.4 trillion (RM3.6 trillion), according to the MAS.
The report said "relevant controls are in place" for financial institutions, including supervision by MAS, record keeping, transaction monitoring and rigorous customer due diligence measures.
It identified remittance agents, money-changers, Internet-based stored value facility holders, pawnbrokers as well as corporate service providers as sectors where "controls are relatively less robust".
"Relevant government agencies will be strengthening the legislative and supervisory framework through the year to address the risks in these sectors more effectively," it said.
"The possibility that terrorist elements may seek to direct funds from abroad to support terrorism activities in Singapore or use Singapore as a conduit for foreign (terrorist financing) cannot be discounted," the report said.
Singapore in 2001 said it crippled a cell of the South-East Asia-based militant network Jemaah Islamiyah with the arrest of suspects linked to an alleged plot to bomb local and foreign targets including Changi Airport.
Officials say the island republic is a prime target for extremist groups because of its close ties with the United States and major role in global finance and business. — AFP
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