$2m kidnap plot gang held rich student hostage, court is told

THE son of a millionaire Chinese couple was lured to Yorkshire and held hostage for five days as part of a two million dollar kidnap plot, a jury was told yesterday.

Bradford Crown Court heard that 18-year-old Lishui Wu naively showed off his wealth by wearing expensive clothing purchased from stores such as Harrods and walking around with his wallet full of 50 notes while studying at a business school in London.

The teenager had substantial financial support from his parents, who were said to have given him 5,000 a month for living expenses in addition to paying the rent on his flat.

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Mr Wu became friendly with people at his local Chinese takeaway, but the jury heard that by the end of 2009 they were plotting to kidnap him and extort money from his parents, whose wealth was estimated to be about 4m.

Paul Greaney QC, prosecuting, told the court that two men, Qun Xue, 26, of Springdale Avenue, Thornton Lodge, Huddersfield, and Ting Fu Guo, 26, of no fixed address, had already admitted being part of the conspiracy to kidnap Mr Wu and blackmail his parents.

But yesterday their girlfriends and two other men, Ming Ming Zheng, 38, of Springdale Street, Huddersfield, and Hang Yu, 21, who ran the takeaway in London, went on trial having denied the conspiracy charges.

The jury heard that by January this year steps had been taken to rent a house in Manor Street, Huddersfield, which could be used as a "stronghold" for the kidnapping, and items such as cable ties, screwdrivers, and nylon gloves had been bought from local stores.

Mr Greaney alleged that Zheng had been heavily involved in the preparations for the kidnapping and on January 14 Mr Wu travelled to West Yorkshire on the pretext of looking at possible investment properties in the area.

The court heard that Mr Wu had a meal with Guo and Xue at the end terrace house in Manor Street before he was persuaded by them to smoke cannabis which they had already prepared.

"Mr Wu then fell asleep. He awoke when Qun Zue turned on a light," said Mr Greaney.

"He discovered that he was on a bed and that his hands and feet had been bound with cable ties of the type that, as you will see, had been bought from B&Q.

"When he awoke a knife was pointed at him and he was assaulted.

"His mouth and ears had been filled with tissue and cotton and his head had been taped in some way.

"He was told that if he made any noise he would be killed."

After taking Mr Wu to an attic room where he was tied to a chair the pair told him they were desperate for money to pay off gambling debts and they questioned him about his parents' wealth and the economic state of their shipping business in China.

"After some debate they determined to demand the sum of $2m from Lishui Wu's parents," said Mr Greaney.

The men told Mr Wu that they were connected to criminals in China who could collect the money.

The hostage was then forced at knifepoint to speak to his mother on the telephone and tell her that he had been kidnapped.

During the call the mother was told by the kidnappers: "Get $2m ready in two days. We will collect it from your neighbourhood."

The authorities in China were alerted by Mr Wu's parents and over the next five days they received a further six ransom calls from the kidnappers.

During his first night of captivity Mr Wu was left tied to the chair without food or drink, but the following day he was given food from a Chinese takeaway and tied to a bed base while captors slept on the mattress in the same room.

Mr Greaney told the court that Mr Wu was held hostage in the house for five days during which time he was beaten and mistreated until armed police kicked in the front door and rescued him on January 20.

Zheng, Yu, of Burdett Road, London, and two women – Min Fang He, 24, also of Burdett Road and Hong Zhu, 27, of Pear Close, London – have all denied charges of conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to blackmail.

The trial is expected to last between four and six weeks.