$20m ransom demand to spare his mum
GOING through accounts at his chain's headquarters in Mandai, Sheng Siong chief executive Lim Hock Chee received a chilling call around 1pm on Wednesday.
The stranger on the line told him that he had kidnapped Mr Lim's 79-year-old mother, Madam Ng Lai Poh. The ransom demand? $20 million.
"They let me hear her voice, and I confirmed it was her," Mr Lim told the media yesterday.
He had a quick discussion with his brother and they called the police. Two hours had already passed since his mother was kidnapped on her way home from the market in Hougang Avenue 8.
The kidnapper had approached her while she was crossing an overhead bridge and told her that her son had taken a fall.
"He told her I was seriously injured and in pain, and that he was there to fetch her to see me," Mr Lim said.
Madam Ng followed the stranger into a white car, and was transferred into another vehicle soon after. She was blindfolded and her hands and feet bound.
While Madam Ng was being held somewhere, the kidnapper and Mr Lim exchanged almost 40 calls. The police guided him on what to say and he managed to haggle the ransom down to $2 million. He scrambled to get the cash with the help of his eight siblings.
He was told to go alone, and to place the money, in a canvas bag, at Sembawang Park close to midnight. He complied. "Human life is more important," he told MyPaper.
"I didn't want to see them, they didn't want to see me, so I put the bag there and left," said the man who, according to a recent Forbes estimate, is worth $515 million.
Twenty minutes later, the kidnapper called to say his mother was at a bus stop at Seletar West Camp. Driving by himself, Mr Lim got lost on his way there.
"They catch me for what?" asked his mother when he finally saw her. She was unhurt.
Two men were arrested in connection with the kidnapping - a 41-year-old whose job is to push shelves into a supermarket at closing time and a 50-year-old who promotes credit cards at roadshows.
The police did not ambush them after Mr Lim dropped the bag. This was to ensure that Madam Ng stayed safe. Both men were arrested soon after she was reunited with her son.
The bag containing the ransom money was retrieved from the park.
Kidnapping is punishable by death or life imprisonment. There have been only three cases in the last 13 years, which were successfully solved.
Mr Lim is taking no more chances. Changing a routine of more than 10 years, he said: "My mother won't be going to the market alone anymore."