Man axes plan to rob bank with air pistol

A security executive in financial difficulty devised an elaborate plan to rob a bank with an illegal air pistol, but got cold feet at the last minute and went to work instead.

Ng Shi Qiang, 31, did extensive online research on bank heists and carried out reconnaissance missions at several banks here.

He decided to target the POSB outlet at Block 926, Yishun Central 1, and went there on the morning of Oct 14, 2013, carrying a bag with the air pistol and other equipment.

But Ng could not bring himself to carry out his plan to rush in through the front door when two women arrived to unlock it, as he did not want to hurt them.

He left and stashed the items, including cable ties, gloves and a mask, in a dry riser unit at a nearby Housing Board block.

When he returned to retrieve them two days later, someone had already discovered the items and called the police.

Yesterday, Ng was sentenced to five years and nine months in jail and six strokes of the cane, after admitting to possessing the Beretta pistol without a licence.

One other charge under the Arms Offences Act, for having various component parts of real firearms, was taken into consideration.

The court earlier heard that Ng had received the air pistol as a birthday present from his 27-year-old brother, a regular serviceman in the Singapore Navy, who brought back the replica firearm from Taiwan in May 2013 on Ng's request.

Ng later decided to rob a bank to pay off his debts, which included $50,000 chalked up through credit cards and a $100,000 loan from his mother- in-law in China.

His research included case studies of bank robberies and how to disable alarm systems.

He chose his target after scouting the area for closed-circuit television cameras and ruling out other outlets which seemed to have more human traffic.

On the day, he had also left a change of clothes and a second bag in the dry riser unit to make him less identifiable if caught on camera. He chose that block as it seemed to be isolated and a safe distance from the bank.

Just before aborting his plan, Ng stood in the blind spot of a security camera at an employment agency near the bank to await the arrival of bank staff members.

Ng has two young children, aged six and seven, and previously worked as an auxiliary police officer and army regular. He was a senior security executive at the time of the offence.

District Judge Low Wee Ping noted the seriousness of Ng's crime, but added that he was puzzled at how Ng came to offend this way, given the 31- year-old's "typical" background. The judge said that although Ng had intended to commit the robbery, he seemed to have a "good side" in not wanting to hurt anyone.

Defence counsel R. S. Wijaya said Ng plans to declare bankruptcy after serving his prison term.

Ng could have been jailed for five to 10 years, and ordered to be given at least six strokes of the cane.

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