Ill and broke, 59-year-old fugitive wanted in Singapore for armed robbery surrenders after over 20 years
Foo Siang Thian was jailed for four years, but the suspect is now too old to be caned
By Wong Pei Ting
A 59-year-old fugitive who had been on the run for an armed robbery for over 20 years finally surrendered this year as he was ill and broke.
Foo Siang Thian was sentenced to four years’ jail and a three-year driving ban for robbery and motor vehicle theft. Foo had earlier been repatriated by the Malaysian authorities in 1998, two years after his offence, but managed to flee and returned there that same year.
Foo, who had not been charged for his crimes before Wednesday, remained a fugitive until his surrender to the Malaysian police in Kuala Lumpur in March.
In sentencing Foo, District Judge (DJ) Kenneth Yap added three months to his sentence as his assessment was that one of the reasons Foo turned himself in was because he is now over 50 years old and cannot be caned.
For his robbery charge, Foo could have been jailed for between two and 10 years. As he was armed with a deadly weapon, he could have been caned not less than 12 strokes if he was below 50.
Throwing out his lawyer’s defence that Foo surrendered voluntarily, DJ Yap said it cannot be taken as a mitigating factor as criminals cannot be encouraged to “pick and choose” the time of their incarceration.
“If there is no deterrent, they can choose to abscond until there is no need to be caned,” he added.
Foo’s lawyer, Mr Siraj Shaik Aziz, had argued for a lighter jail sentence of not more than three and a half years. He said his client had suffered a stroke and lost mobility on the right side of his body, and that a longer jail term would take a toll on his health.
But DJ Yap said he could not dismiss the fact that Foo turned himself in when he was “not capable of working” and required medical help, which the prisons can provide.
He said: “You made your bed, so sleep in it. If the prison is tough, you have no choice. If you (have to be) hospitalised, you spend prison time on the hospital bed.”
The court heard that on the morning of July 5, 1996, Foo — who was then 37 — rode a motorcycle he had stolen to rob an acquaintance, Mr Ang Teck Nguang, of more than S$44,000 (US$32,936). Mr Ang was the former employer of one of Foo’s accomplices, Lee Ai Eng, who is now 58, at engineering firm, San Hup Engineering.
Court documents revealed that it was Foo who broached the idea of robbing Mr Ang as he was facing financial difficulties. Foo recalled that Lee had previously told him which bank the victim would withdraw money from to pay his staff.
After roping in Lee, Foo also recruited How Meng Yan, who was then 32.
A day before the robbery, Foo and Lee stole a motorcycle at Blk 3 Bedok South Avenue 1.
Foo then parked the motorcycle outside Jurong Town swimming pool, and left in Lee’s car. He then called How to tell him that they were ready to carry out the robbery.
The trio met at the carpark on July 5 and decided that Foo and How would carry out the robbery as Mr Ang, who was then 43 years, would likely recognise Lee. Lee was tasked to wait in his car at a nearby multi-storey carpark in Tah Ching Road for getaway purposes.
At about 10.30am, the duo, who was stationed at a carpark near Block 65 Yung Kuang Road saw Mr Ang heading to an OCBC bank outlet.
Shortly after 11am, Mr Ang left the bank with an envelope containing S$44,876.23 in cash and walked towards his car, which was parked about 20 metres away. Foo and How approached him and held up knives wrapped in newspapers.
Sensing that something was amiss, Mr Ang tried to run towards the bank, but he was stopped by them as one grabbed him from the rear.
Terrified, he threw the envelope onto the ground, spilling some of the cash. Foo and How picked up the money and stuffed it into their shirts, and fled on the stolen motorcycle.
They met Lee at the Tah Ching Road carpark, abandoned the motorcycle and left in Lee’s car. They subsequently met at Foo’s house in Chai Chee to split the money.
Foo pocketed over S$10,000 (US$7,486), and used some of it to pay off his debts. The rest was used for his daily expenses.
An employee of Mr Ang’s called the police to report the robbery.
Lee was convicted on October 28, 1996, and sentenced to three years and two months’ jail, six strokes of the cane, and banned from driving for three years.
How, who had previously committed multiple property-related offences, was convicted on Dec 27, 1996, and sentenced to three years’ jail and 12 strokes of the cane.
Foo’s mother and sister – the only two family members his lawyer managed to reach – were present at his court hearing on Wednesday. His mother, who had not seen her son for many years, cried as Foo was escorted away.
TODAY understands that Foo has a wife and son based here, but his lawyer could not locate them.