A FAILED businessman and his elderly mother were told to 'prepare for death' if they were unable to settle a debt with his partner, the District Court heard yesterday. The court was told Leung Kwok-chung, 19, also threatened to torch Ling Tin-cheung's home. Leung pleaded not guilty to criminal intimidation and arson. In June 1992, Leung and Mr Ling, 23, decided to start a transport firm, each contributing $30,000, prosecutor Fu Chong-sang told Deputy Judge Geiser. The firm went under two months later. Mr Ling accepted responsibility and agreed to refund Leung's $30,000 in instalments. When more than a year had passed without payment, Leung contacted Mr Ling and demanded his money, counsel said. The court heard that in mid-October 1993 Mr Ling's mother, Kwok Tai-ho, 69, gave him $2,000 and Mr Ling promised to make monthly payments of $1,000. In December Mrs Kwok was warned by phone she and her son should settle the debt or prepare for death. Two days later, Mrs Kwok was alone in the flat when Leung arrived and threatened to set fire to it, Mr Fu said. In the early hours of February 6, Mr Ling heard someone in the corridor, then glass breaking before smoke and flames filled the flat's hallway. He and a neighbour extinguished the fire. The court heard that police found traces of paint thinner on the debris and Leung's clothing. Called to give evidence yesterday Mr Ling and his mother said their relationship with Leung was harmonious and they always paid their debts on time. The trial continues.