Sheng Siong kidnapping (2014)

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Lee Sze Yong (right), the mastermind behind the kidnapping stunt. Photo from TODAYonline.

In January 2014, the 79-year old Ng Lye Poh was kidnapped and released after a ransom of S$2,000,000 had been paid by her son. Her son was Lim Hock Chee, the Chief Executive of Sheng Siong supermarket. In 2013, Lim Hock Chee was ranked 35th on Forbes Singapore’s 50 Richest list. His net worth was S$645,300,000, which made him a prime target for Lee Sze Yong. Investigations revealed that Lee Sze Yong had been planning for an abduction act since 2010, targeting affluent businessmen such as George Quek and Peter Lim.

Newspaper reports linked the case to a series of kidnappings in 1960 that operated on a similar motive. A serial kinapping gang led by Oh Kim Kee targeted wealthy millionaires in Singapore and Malaysia.

Details of incident

Lim Hock Chee, the son of Ng Lye Poh and the boss of the supermarket chain Sheng Siong. Photo from The Business Times.
The victim of the 2014 kidnapping, Ng Lye Poh. Photo from Lianhe Zaobao.

Ng Lye Poh's abduction

On the morning of 8 January 2014, Ng Lye Poh had gone marketing at Hougang Avenue 8. It was reported that this was her routine for the past ten years. She then met and passed her groceries to her helper, who brought the groceries home while she went for breakfast at a coffee shop near her home. This is the last time Ng Lye Poh had contact with anyone before her kidnapping.[1]


At roughly 11.30 am on 8 January 2014, as she was walking along Hougang Avenue 2 to return home, she was approached by a stranger telling her that her son had a bad fall and was severely injured. Following investigations, the stranger was revealed as Lee Sze Yong. Worried about her son, Ng Lye Poh accepted Lee Sze Yong’s offer to bring her to see her son.[2]


Lee Sze Yong drove to Seletar Camp where he took the chance to blindfold Ng Lye Poh. He then called Lim Hock Chee using a Malaysian number. Lee Sze Yong told Lim Hock Chee to prepare S$20,000,000 in cash to secure the release of his mother. Lim Hock Chee requested to speak to his mother during the call to verify the truth of the kidnapping. Lee Sze Yong complied with the request but warned him not to report the kidnapping to the police or his mother’s life would be compromised. At 12.55 pm, Lee Sze Yong sent a text message to Lim Hock Chee stating that the payment should be in denominations of "S$100 and S$1,000 notes" and "not in continuous serial number".[3]


After discussing the matter with his elder brother, Lim Hock Chee informed the police of the kidnapping. The police allegedly received a call from Lim Hock Chee at 2.13 pm and immediately dispatched their Criminal Investigation and Police Intelligence departments.[4]


Lim Hock Chee called Lee Sze Yong at 7.35 pm and informed him that he was only able to secure S$2,000,000 instead of the S$20,000,000 requested. At first, Lee Sze Yong stated that the S$2,000,000 was insufficient. After much negotiation, Lee Sze Yong accepted the ransom payment of S$2,000,000.[5]

Ng Lye Poh's release

At around 10.25 pm, Lee Sze Yong called Lim Hock Chee and instructed him to drive to Car Park 2 at Sembawang Park. At 11.10 pm, he was instructed to leave the bag containing the ransom money under a tree next to a pavilion. Lee Sze Yong waited for about 15 minutes before he retrieved the bag. After confirming that the bag contained cash, he deposited the bag in the thick vegetation along Cyprus Road.[6]


Lee Sze Yong then drove to a bus stop near Seletar Camp where he released Ng Lye Poh. He had allegedly helped to clean her face, arms and hands with a wet tissue.[7] Lee Sze Yong called Lim Hock Chee at 12.05 am to inform him of his mother’s location. Ng Lye Poh was promptly retrieved by the police and her son. She was then brought to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital for a check-up.[8]

Arrests and court case (2014 & 2016)

Lee Sze Yong leading investigators to the site of the ransom money. Photo from AsiaOne.

Lee Sze Yong and Heng Chen Boon were arrested on 9 January 2014. On 15 January 2014, 39 police officers, 2 departments and 4 units were presented with the Minister for Home Affairs Operational Excellence Award for their efforts in solving the kidnapping case.[9]

Lee Sze Yong

Lee Sze Yong was apprehended at the carpark of his friend's house at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10.[10] He then led the police to retrieve the bag of cash he had thrown into the vegetation at Cyprus Road.[11] Evidence found in Lee Sze Yong’s car revealed that he had been planning a kidnap-for-ransom act since 2010. His planner contained information on potential targets such as:[12]

  • Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim’s children
  • Bread Talk’s founder George Quek
  • Fragrance Group’s Koh Wee Meng
  • “Popiah King” Sam Goi of Tee Yih Jia Foods
  • Serial System’s Goh Bak Heng
  • Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim
  • Genting Group’s Lim Kok Thay
  • Indian businessman and singer Shael Oswal
A 2016 report published by The Straits Times detailing the timeline of the kidnapping. Photo from AsiaOne.
A photo of the ransom money that was retrieved by the police on 9 January 2019. Photo from YAHOO! News.


Lee Sze Yong had bought business information on his potential targets and organised stake-outs at the homes of some of them. He gathered information about their movements, what cars they drove and the schools their children attended. Lee Sze Yong had even tailed George Quek when he went out for his daily morning exercise at Botanic Gardens.[13]


The reason for Lee Sze Yong’s fixation on kidnapping for ransom was revealed in court on 31 August 2016. His father had suffered a stroke and was sent to a private nursing home which cost roughly S$1,500 per month. Lee Sze Yong was earning about S$2,000 per month then and his father’s medical expenses was a large financial burden. Despite this situation, Lee Sze Yong chose to buy a Volkswagen car and go on trips to Bangkok and Hong Kong. This led him to borrow money from banks, friends and loan sharks. He gradually chalked up a debt of S$200,000 and after reading the Forbes List in 2010, he decided that a kidnap-for-ransom would provide him with enough money to pay off his debt and live lavishly. He had planned to buy a Ferrari California with the ransom money he received.[14]


During the court hearing, it was revealed that Lee Sze Yong had bought the following gear in preparation for the kidnapping:[15]

  • A skin-coloured face mask bought from eBay.
  • A taser bought from a Bangkok night market in Thailand.
  • A Halloween face mask bought from a shop in Kuala Lumpur.
  • Pepper spray bought from a shop in Kuala Lumpur.
  • Cable ties bought from a shop at Sim Lim Tower.
  • Two false car registration plates bought from Johor Bahru.
  • A Malay woman's outfit with headgear bought at a night market in Singapore during Hari Raya in 2013.
  • A bottle of chloroform bought online.
  • Duct tape, chilli powder, fake blood, a hat, ropes, surgical mask and blindfolds bought at various locations in Singapore.


Initially, Lee Sze Yong’s lawyer argued for a lighter sentence stating that he should not be found guilty under the Kidnapping Act because the offence "requires that the abductor intends to hold his victim until and unless he receives the ransom". His lawyer argued that he had "all along intended to release Mdm Ng whether or not he received any ransom". Justice Chan Seng Onn rejected the appeal stating the argument.[16]

Lee Sze Yong appeal for death penalty

Lee Sze Yong was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment and 3 strokes of the cane under the Kidnapping Act. On 1 December 2016, Lee Sze Yong presented a hand-written letter to the court, appealing for a death penalty instead of life imprisonment. His letter stated that he had already ruined his life and "by dying, I hope that I have repaid my debt and to be at peace". He also asked for forgiveness from Ng Lye Poh and explained that he did not have "any intention to hurt or abuse her in any way". However, Justice Chan Seng Onn denied his appeal and encouraged Lee Sze Yong not to despair. He stated that "there is still hope at the end of the day" and the law allows for a review of the jail term after Lee Sze Yong has served 20 years.[17]

Heng Chen Boon

Heng Chen Boon was arrested after the police raided his Hougang flat [18] Two psychiatrists who examined Heng Chen Boon after his arrest concluded that he had low intellect which impaired his judgement during the incident. He was originally charged under the Kidnapping Act but had his jail term reduced from 10 years to 3 years on 9 April 2014.[19]


Heng Chen Boon was initially led to believe that Ng Lye Poh's kidnapping was part of Lee Sze Yong's private investigation work.[20] When Lee Sze Yong revealed the truth to Heng Chen Boon, he allegedly burst into tears. Heng Chen Boon failed to convince Lee Sze Yong to abort the abduction and aided the kidnapper in wrongly confining Ng Lye Poh.[21][22][23] Lee Sze Yong had also threatened to expose their past sexual relationship to Heng Chen Boon's mother.[24]

References / Citations


  1. “Sheng Siong kidnap: Timeline of events”. The Straits Times. January 9, 2014. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/sheng-siong-kidnap-timeline-of-events
  2. “Criminal Case No 39 of 2016”. Supreme Court of Singapore. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.supremecourt.gov.sg/docs/default-source/module-document/judgement/pp-v-lee-sze-yong---judgment---with-final-edits-pdf.pdf
  3. “Criminal Case No 39 of 2016”. Supreme Court of Singapore. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.supremecourt.gov.sg/docs/default-source/module-document/judgement/pp-v-lee-sze-yong---judgment---with-final-edits-pdf.pdf
  4. Lim, Joyce. “Your son had a fall, stranger told Sheng Siong boss' mum”. The Straits Times. January 10, 2014. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/your-son-had-a-fall-stranger-told-sheng-siong-boss-mum
  5. “Criminal Case No 39 of 2016”. Supreme Court of Singapore. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.supremecourt.gov.sg/docs/default-source/module-document/judgement/pp-v-lee-sze-yong---judgment---with-final-edits-pdf.pdf
  6. “Criminal Case No 39 of 2016”. Supreme Court of Singapore. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.supremecourt.gov.sg/docs/default-source/module-document/judgement/pp-v-lee-sze-yong---judgment---with-final-edits-pdf.pdf
  7. “Criminal Case No 39 of 2016”. Supreme Court of Singapore. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.supremecourt.gov.sg/docs/default-source/module-document/judgement/pp-v-lee-sze-yong---judgment---with-final-edits-pdf.pdf
  8. Neo, Chai Chin. “2 nabbed for kidnapping Sheng Siong boss’ mother”. Today Online. January 11, 2014. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/2-nabbed-kidnapping-sheng-siong-boss-mother
  9. Yeo, Sam Jo. “Police officers lauded for solving Sheng Siong kidnap case”. The Straits Times. January 15, 2014. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/police-officers-lauded-for-solving-sheng-siong-kidnap-case
  10. “Criminal Case No 39 of 2016”. Supreme Court of Singapore. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.supremecourt.gov.sg/docs/default-source/module-document/judgement/pp-v-lee-sze-yong---judgment---with-final-edits-pdf.pdf
  11. Hussain, Amir. “3 years' jail for man involved in Sheng Siong kidnapping case”. The Straits Times. May 11, 2014. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/3-years-jail-for-man-involved-in-sheng-siong-kidnapping-case
  12. Lum, Selina. “Sheng Siong kidnapping: Accused's first target was billionaire Peter Lim's children”. The Straits Times. August 31, 2016. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/sheng-siong-kidnapping-accuseds-first-target-was-billionaire-peter-lims
  13. Lee, Amanda. “Sheng Siong kidnapping case: Accused had list of potential targets”. Today Online. September 1, 2016. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/sheng-siong-kidnapping-case-alleged-kidnapper-had-list-possible-targets-court-hears
  14. Lee, Amanda. “Sheng Siong kidnapping case: Accused had list of potential targets”. Today Online. September 1, 2016. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/sheng-siong-kidnapping-case-alleged-kidnapper-had-list-possible-targets-court-hears
  15. Alkhatib, Shaffiq. “Accomplice cried when he learnt friend had kidnapped Sheng Siong CEO's mum”. The New Paper. May 12, 2015. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/accomplice-cried-when-he-learnt-friend-had-kidnapped-sheng-siong-ceos-mum
  16. Chelvan, Vanessa Paige. “Sheng Siong kidnapping: Life imprisonment, caning for kidnapper”. Channel NewsAsia. June 13, 2017. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/sheng-siong-kidnapping-life-imprisonment-caning-for-kidnapper-7652602
  17. Loh, Ronald. “Sheng Siong chief executive says kidnap sentence is fair”. The New Paper. December 2, 2016. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/sheng-siong-chief-executive-says-kidnap-sentence-fair
  18. Khan, Safhras. “Sheng Siong case: Accomplice says accused threatened to expose sexual relationship”. Yahoo News. August 30, 2016. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://sg.news.yahoo.com/sheng-siong-case-accomplice-says-accused-135112893.html
  19. Alkhatib, Shaffiq. “Accomplice cried when he learnt friend had kidnapped Sheng Siong CEO's mum”. The New Paper. May 12, 2015. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/accomplice-cried-when-he-learnt-friend-had-kidnapped-sheng-siong-ceos-mum
  20. Alkhatib, Shaffiq. “Accomplice cried when he learnt friend had kidnapped Sheng Siong CEO's mum”. The New Paper. May 12, 2015. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/accomplice-cried-when-he-learnt-friend-had-kidnapped-sheng-siong-ceos-mum
  21. Alkhatib, Shaffiq. “Accomplice cried when he learnt friend had kidnapped Sheng Siong CEO's mum”. The New Paper. May 12, 2015. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/accomplice-cried-when-he-learnt-friend-had-kidnapped-sheng-siong-ceos-mum
  22. Hussain, Amir. “3 years' jail for man involved in Sheng Siong kidnapping case”. The Straits Times. May 11, 2014. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/3-years-jail-for-man-involved-in-sheng-siong-kidnapping-case
  23. Lee, Amanda. “Two charged with kidnapping Sheng Siong boss’ mum”. Today Online. January 11, 2014. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/two-charged-kidnapping-sheng-siong-boss-mum
  24. Khan, Safhras. “Sheng Siong case: Accomplice says accused threatened to expose sexual relationship”. Yahoo News. August 30, 2016. Accessed on 25 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://sg.news.yahoo.com/sheng-siong-case-accomplice-says-accused-135112893.html