Gold Bar Murders
In December 1972, a group of 10 men killed businessman Ngo Cheng Poh and his employees, Leong Chin Woo and Ang Boon Chai, over 120 gold bars. Known as the "Gold Bar Murders",1 the case was one of Singapore's most prominent criminal cases. The men responsible were Andrew Chou Hock Guan, his brother David Chou Hock Heng, Augustine Ang, Peter Lim Swee Guan, Alex Yau Hean Thye, Richard James, Stephen Francis, Konesekaran Nagalingam, Ringo Lee Chiew Chwee and Stephen Lee Hock Khoon. Augustine Ang was detained indefinitely without trial, and Ringo Lee and Stephen Lee were detained at the president's pleasure as they were under the age of 18. The remaining seven men were hanged on 28 February 1975.
Andrew Chou worked as a ground operations supervisor with Air Vietnam in Singapore. His job enabled him to pass through airport security with ease, and allowed him to establish connections with Air Vietnam staff and aircrew. He became involved in smuggling gold for three syndicates in Singapore: Kee Guan Import-Export Co., Eastern Watch Co. and Lee Tong Heng Import and Export. The gold was brought to Chou’s house, No. 19 Chepstow Close, Serangoon Gardens, to be taken to the airport for loading. In return, he received US$5 from crew members and US$10 from the local consignee for each gold bar.2
However, in October 1971, a sum of US$235,000 that had arrived on an Air Vietnam flight went missing. The money was payment to the three syndicates for the gold and they were suspicious of Chou and pressured him to find the missing money. Chou suspected that some of the aircrew had stolen the money and while he was able to recover most of it, his relations with the syndicates became strained after the incident.3 The syndicates no longer trusted him and sent less gold consignments for export. Eastern Watch Co. stopped exporting gold through Chou; Lee Tong Heng Import and Export sent only one consignment; and Kee Guan Import-Export Co. continued to work with Chou but sent smaller consignments.
Description of events
With his income from gold smuggling considerably reduced, Chou plotted with his brother, Peter Lim and Augustine Ang to rob and kill whoever sent the next consignment of gold for export. Lim and Augustine Ang were tasked with recruiting extra help, offering S$20,000 each for the job.
On 29 December 1971, Chou received a call from Ngo Cheng Poh, his contact from Kee Guan Import-Export Co., informing him of the next delivery, comprising 120 gold bars (worth S$500,000), to be sent to Chou’s house later that night.4 Chou notified Augustine Ang and all the parties involved subsequently gathered at Chou’s house. At about midnight, Ngo arrived at Chou’s house together with his two assistants, Leong Chin Woo and Ang Boon Chai. The Chou brothers greeted Ngo and Leong while Ang Boon Chai waited in the car. As Ngo and Leong watched Augustine Ang count the gold, the brothers attacked them from behind, and the other accomplices who had been hiding in the kitchen rushed out to help. After Ngo and Leong had been killed, Andrew Chou dealt with Ang Boon Chai similarly.
The dead bodies were put into Leong’s car and dumped near a disused mining pond in Jalan Lembah Bedok. The other accomplices disposed of Ngo’s car. The Chou brothers and Augustine Ang brought the gold to Catherine Ang (unrelated to Augustine Ang), a contact who was to arrange the sale of the gold. Chou called Ngo’s wife, claiming that Ngo and his employees had not delivered the gold.5
On 30 December, the police discovered the bodies at Jalan Tiga Ratus following an anonymous tip. Police retrieved 115 gold bars from the home of Catherine Ang, while another five gold bars were found in David Chou’s office at Bayer Singapore Pte. Ltd.
Nine of the 10 men were brought to trial: the Chou brothers, Lim, Yau, Ringo Lee, James, Francis, Nagalingam, and Stephen Lee. All nine pleaded not guilty to three joint charges of causing the deaths of Ngo, Leong and Ang.6
Augustine Ang confessed to being an accomplice and participant in the murder of the three men. He became the key prosecution witness in order to save his own life. The murder charges against him were withdrawn and he was discharged. However, the discharge did not amount to an acquittal. Ang was arrested and detained under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, which allows the government to detain dangerous criminals without trial for an indefinite period.7
In December 1972, Solicitor-General A. W. Ghows made his final submission to Justice Chua and Justice Choor Singh that all nine accused should be found guilty as charged. The accused tried to appeal against the verdict twice, first to the Appeal Court that all nine accused did not have the common objective of killing the victims. The next appeal was made to the Privy Council. Both appeals were unsuccessful. As a last resort, they appealed to then President Benjamin Sheares for clemency, but it was reported in February 1975 that the president had rejected their petitions.8
Ringo Lee Chiew Chwee and Stephen Lee Hock Khoon escaped the death penalty because they were both under 18 at the time of the murders. They were ordered to be detained at the president’s pleasure. The other seven men, having been found guilty and unsuccessful in their appeals and clemency petitions, were hanged at Changi Prison on 28 February 1975.9
1. Alex Josey, The Tenth Man: Gold Bar Murders (Singapore: Times Books International, 1981), 7. (Call no. RSING 364.1523095957 JOS)
2. Sarah Ooi, All for the Money: Bribery, Cheats, Swindles and Other Monetary Fraud in Singapore (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2014), 37. (Call no. RSING 364.168095957 OOI)
3. “A Graveyard Meeting with Bomohs – and a Heinous Plot to Kill Three Friends,” Straits Times, 2 April 1978, 15. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Josey, The Tenth Man, 6.
5. Josey, The Tenth Man, 7; “Graveyard Meeting with Bomohs.”
6. Ooi, All for the Money, 42.
7. Ooi, All for the Money, 43.
8. “All 7 Lose Their Last Hope,” Straits Times, 25 February 1975, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Ooi, All for the Money, 43.
Alex Josey, The Tenth Man: Gold Bar Murders (Singapore: Times Books International, 1981). (Call no. RSING 364.1523095957 JOS)
“Another Man Charged with Gold Bar Murders,” Straits Times, 9 February 1972, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
Ben Davidson, “'I Wasn't Given Pardon to Be a Witness',” Straits Times, 3 November 1972, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
Ben Davidson, “Robbery Idea Was Ang’s Says Andrew,” Straits Times, 22 November 1972, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
Christina Cheang and S. M. Muthu, "’I thought He Had Been Waylaid’,” Straits Times, 9 May 1972, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
Christina Cheang and S. M. Muthu, “Court told of $20,000 Offer to Kill 3,” Straits Times, 4 May 1972, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
“QC to Argue Gold Bars Murder Appeal,” Straits Times, 10 November 1973, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
T. F. Hwang and Ben Davidson, “Gold Bars Triple Murder Trial Opens – 9 in Dock.” Straits Times, 10 October 1972, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.