Singapore - For the first time, Asia's richest man and Hong Kong businessman Li Ka-Shing has revealed details of the kidnapping of his eldest son, Victor Li, then-31, by gangster Cheung Tze-keung, who is also notoriously known by his nickname 'Big Spender'.
In report by South China Morning Post (SCMP), tycoon Li, also known as 'Superman', said that after the kidnapper Cheung collected the ransom money of HK$1 billion (S$162 million), he called him up and asked for advice on how to invest the ransom money.
The criminal wanted to know how to make 'safe investments', tycoon Li told the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Media Group.
The 85-year-old tycoon recalled telling the gangster that he had taken enough money to spend for the rest of his life, and that while there is a chance, he should "fly far and high". Li also told Cheung to "turn over a new leaf and be a good man"; if not, his "ending will be a sad one", reported the SCMP article.
According to Chinese crime investigation show Crime Files, Cheung was described as a heavy gambler and frequently lost huge amounts of money at the casinos in Macau. Together with his gang members from neighbouring Chinese cities, they committed a spate of robberies, murders and kidnappings in the 1990s according to reports online.
Cheung is best known for orchestrating the kidnapping cases of the two richest families in Hong Kong. A report in The Business Times in 1998 said Cheung had hatched his kidnapping plans as early as 1995 and his motive was to abduct the 10 richest men in Hong Kong 'one by one'.
On May 23, 1996, young tycoon Victor Li, eldest son of Li Ka-shing, was kidnapped by Cheung and his gang when he was returning to his home in Deep Water Bay Road from the office in Central. He was taken at around Shouson Hill Road West, blinded and handcuffed, reported Crime Files, and then driven to a hideout.
According to online reports, Cheung had initially asked for HK$2 billion from the frantic family members of the Li household. Scared and concerned for the young Victor's life, the elder Li agreed to give Cheung the money. Cheung then showed up at the Li's home alone, with explosives attached to his body, to collect the ransom money, said Crime Files.
Elder Li did not have HK$2 billion of cash on hand so Cheung settled for HK$1 billion, according to SCMP. The young Victor Li was subsequently released after a day of capture.
Cheung and his gang mates were not satisfied with the billion-dollar ransom money, and just over a year later, the gang made their second kidnapping attempt on tycoon Walter Kwok on Sep 29, 1997. The Kwok family was described to be the second richest family after the Lis, reported The Business Times. The Li family, on the other hand, owns a conglomerate of businesses in retail, banking, property and various other business activities.