A YOUTH who demanded $40 million from two soft drinks companies pretending he had poisoned their beverages was yesterday sentenced to three years' jail by the High Court. Aaron Chow Ka-wing, 18, who committed the crime eight days after leaving a training centre where he had served a term for offences including attempted rape, had pleaded guilty to blackmailing Vitasoy International Holdings Limited and Swire Bottles Limited. In passing sentence, Mr Justice Sears said people who tried to frighten the public by poisoning food or drink in order to obtain large sums of money could expect to go to prison for a long time. People must be deterred from committing offences which would cause public terror and panic, he said. Mr Justice Sears said psychiatric reports showed that Chow, now on remand for loitering and being a peeping Tom, suffered sexual fantasies and had personality problems. The judge was of the view Chow committed the offences as part of his fantasies, rather than with evil intent. Senior Crown Counsel Christina Ma told the court that the sales manager of Vitasoy, Lau Man-kwong, received a phone call from Chow on June 11 last year. Chow told Mr Lau: ''We're a gang. We need $20 million. Tell your boss to get it ready . . . I've already put things inside your packs. It's disastrous and your company will be in trouble.'' He also told the sales manager the poisoned drinks were in shops at Aberdeen bus terminal. He made a second call that day, claiming he had put ''something'' in a pack of lemon tea in a 7-Eleven store in Aberdeen Main Road. On the same day, Chow also asked Swire for $20 million, claiming he had poisoned the firm's Hi-C drinks in the Aberdeen area. On June 23 last year, acting on Chow's instruction, the company collected a note left in the cistern of a toilet in a Central restaurant which gave them directions on how to deliver the money in Yuen Long. After negotiations, the demand was reduced to $1 million, then, on June 29, to $500,000. Chow was traced and arrested when he called Vitasoy again the next day from a Wan Chai restaurant to make arrangements for picking up the money. The products recovered by the two companies were sent to the government chemist for testing. They had not been tampered with or poisoned. Under caution, Chow admitted blackmailing the two companies because he needed money to pay his father's debts. He chose to commit blackmail rather than robbery because he did not want to hurt anyone, he said. His counsel, Wong Chi-keung, in mitigation, said that while Chow was still serving his term in the training centre, his father told him he owed a loanshark money. Out of stupidity, Chow decided he would help his father to repay the debt by blackmailing the two companies, counsel said, adding Chow was now remorseful. Chow was only 17 at the time of the offence, Mr Wong said, asking the court to take into account the fact that the drinks had not been contaminated.