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Crime in Hong Kong

‘I’ll never set foot in Hong Kong again’: Burglar admits to break-in and kidnapping of city architect

Yang Chao pleaded guilty to robbery at the High Court on Wednesday and vowed to not return to city after his jail term

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 7:28pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 10:52pm

A mainland man who teamed up with two compatriots and swam for two hours to rob and kidnap a veteran Hong Kong architect vowed on Wednesday to never set foot in the city again.

Yang Chao pleaded guilty to his crimes at the High Court, in a kidnap case reminiscent of another high-profile case where the heiress to a local fashion chain disappeared for four days in 2015.

The court heard Yang and his accomplices ransacked Ma Kim-see’s home in Sai Kung and threatened him, his wife and domestic helper with a knife last year, stealing cash and a host of valuables worth more than HK$132,962.

Seemingly unsatisfied, however, the three then held the architect to ransom. Yang drove the wife to a nearby mall where he forced her buy gold ornaments, amounting to HK$261,000, and withdrawing HK$20,000 from a cash machine, according to prosecutors.

Yang, 28, pleaded guilty to two counts of robbery and one count of forcible detention with an intent to sell, better known as kidnapping for ransom.

“He will not set foot in Hong Kong any more. Nor will he commit the same offence after he finishes serving his sentence,” his lawyer told the court in mitigation.

Acknowledging the defendant sneaked into the city illegally with his accomplices before the robbery, the lawyer likened the case to the high-profile kidnapping of Bossini heiress, Queenie Rosita Law, two years ago.

The woman was blindfolded and taken to a cave from her Sai Kung home, where she was detained for four days, as her kidnappers demanded a HK$28 million ransom. Her only kidnapper arrested in Hong Kong, Zheng Xingwang, was jailed for 12 years in June last year, a month before his accomplices were also imprisoned on the mainland for between 22 months and 15 years.

But Yang’s lawyer distinguished the present case from that one, saying that a much bigger ransom was demanded in that case, and Law was detained for a longer period of time.

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He also said his client was being manipulated by his friends, and was more of an “opportunistic” criminal than a determined kidnapper. Yang, he said, started out merely wanting to commit theft.

Mr Justice Joseph Yau Chi-lap will sentence Yang on December 4.

According the prosecutors, Yang told the police that he and his partners in crime, “Zhu Niu” and “Xiao Mi”, met in a restaurant in Shenzhen about one or two weeks before the incident.

On December 15, 2016, they began to make their move: they climbed over the wall between Shenzhen and Sha Tau Kok and swam for two hours to reach Hong Kong, he told the police.

Two days later, they arrived at Ma’s home in the Bella Vista on Silver Terrace Road, where they sneaked in by climbing over a fence. They confronted Ma, who was working at the time, with a 30cm knife on the third floor of his house, the court heard.

Ma was told he would not be harmed, the court heard, though his hands were tied up before he was taken downstairs where the trio, clad in black masks, threatened his wife and domestic helper with knives again when they crossed paths.

Looting ensued, which saw at least HK$10,500, 7,000 yuan, 4,500 Australian dollars (HK$26,606) and some silver ornaments, worth HK$80,000 stolen, the court heard.

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The trio then drove Ma and his wife to a hillside where Ma was forced to stay with Yang’s accomplices. Yang drove the wife, Lai Bik-lin, to the East Point City shopping centre in Tseung Kwan O to purchase gold ornaments worth HKD$261,167, and withdraw HK$20,000 from an ATM.

The domestic helper, who was left at the house, managed to untie herself and call the police.

Yang was intercepted at a roadblock police had set up when he was on his way to meet the others, who were later found to have already fled the scene, leaving only Ma.

All three men were from Guizhou. The city’s law enforcement had earlier expressed concerns about that corner of the mainland – they feared that more would-be criminals could pour in from there, following another high-profile burglary at the Peak home of HSBC’s Asia-Pacific chief in 2015. It was committed by a four-man gang from Guizhou.

The Post has learned that the other two suspects involved in the present case have been arrested back home and are now awaiting trial.