Kidnapper of Hong Kong heiress jailed for 12 years

PHOTO: Reuters

Hong Kong - A member of a kidnap gang that abducted a Hong Kong heiress for a multi-million-dollar ransom was jailed for 12 years Thursday after what the judge described as a "terrible ordeal" for the victim.

Queenie Rosita Law, granddaughter of late textiles tycoon Law Ting-pong, who founded the Bossini clothing chain, was abducted from her house in Hong Kong in April last year.

The 29-year-old was held in a mountain cave before family members paid a ransom of HK$28 million (S$4.88 million) for her to be released three days later.

Zheng Xingwang, 30, was the only suspect on trial in Hong Kong and pleaded guilty to one count of forcibly taking or detaining a person with an intent to procure a ransom.

Eight other men have appeared in court in the mainland, where they have also pleaded guilty and are awaiting a verdict.

"The offence of kidnapping is a wicked and heinous crime," said judge Kevin Zervos as he sentenced Zheng at the city's High Court.

Law and her boyfriend were asleep at her house in the quiet coastal area of Clearwater Bay when a gang of six mainland Chinese men raided the house, tied them up and put adhesive tape over their mouths, the court heard.

They stole about HK$3 million worth of jewellery and cash from two safes, after forcing Law to give them the combinations.

They then tied her to one of the gang members and she was carried on foot to a hillside cave one-and-a-half hours away while her boyfriend was told to notify her father of the ransom demand.

Zheng provided logistical support and supplies, the court heard.

His lawyer had argued that he played a different role from other members of the gang and was not involved in the robbery at Law's home at the time of her abduction.

"I see no justification to distinguish his role from the others as he clearly came to Hong Kong with them with the sole purpose of carrying out this kidnapping," Zervos said.

His thumb prints were found on one of the brown envelopes carrying the ransom money.

Throughout the ordeal Law had feared for her life, even though she was not physically harmed, Zervos said.

"When she was found by two police officers, she was trembling with fear," Zervos added.

"Queenie went through a harrowing experience." Wearing a dark suit in court Zheng, who is from Guizhou and married with a two year-old daughter, remained expressionless as he received his sentence through translators.

Zheng said in a letter to the court that he felt "remorseful" and apologised to Law's family.

He was on trial in Hong Kong as he was caught in the city - the other members of the gang were arrested in the mainland.

Police in Hong Kong had embarked on a massive operation to hunt down the suspected kidnappers, deploying hundreds of heavily armed officers, helicopters and marine vessels, and setting up roadblocks.

Almost all of the money has been recovered, including some buried on hillsides near the cave where she was taken.

A tent was set up in the cave and Law was fed McDonald's, rice boxes and bread, the court heard.

The judge described it as a case of premeditated kidnapping which was "meticulously planned and executed".

While kidnappings are rare in Hong Kong there have been several high-profile cases, including the abduction of the son of city tycoon Li Ka-shing in 1996 who was released after his father reportedly paid a HK$1 billion ransom.