Prison for gang who demanded ransom of $1m

By David Eames

Four Chinese students have received prison terms for their part in the kidnapping of an Asian student, in an attempt to extort $1 million.

Pengfie Huang, Bo Zhang and Bing Cao, used Cao's girlfriend, Yang Shi, to lure Yang Liu to Auckland's North Shore for a blind date, in March 2004.

When he arrived, the three men bundled him into a car and took him to a Northcote motel, where he was held for about 48 hours while a demand was made for $1 million.

Liu - who only went on the internet-arranged blind date when his flatmate could not make it - was bound, beaten, blindfolded and shut in a closet.

He was given only water, soft drink, some duck to eat, and cigarettes.

He was released and given $300 by his captors after his mother wired the equivalent of $60,000 from China.

All four were arrested soon after, and granted bail.

Cao, however, has been in custody since March this year after his rearrest on charges of importing pseudoephedrine and possession of pseudoephedrine for supply.

Pseudoephedrine is a base ingredient for making methamphetamine.

In Auckland District Court Judge David Wilson, QC, agreed with a Crown contention that there were no mitigating features in any of the men's offending, but a number of aggravating factors, among them: that weapons - a gun and knife - were used in the kidnapping, a high-degree of planning was involved, and Liu was physically restrained during his ordeal.

He sentenced Huang to six years in prison, Zhang received a 5-year term, and Cao - who pleaded guilty before trial - to five years.

Judge Wilson sent Cao's drug charges - to which he has pleaded guilty - to the High Court for sentence.

All three men will be deported at the completion of their sentences.

Yang Shi was only involved in the kidnapping up to the point at which Liu was snatched, and her sentence was a reflection of that.

Her counsel, Paul Heaslip, recommended a community-based sentence given Shi was "a dupe".

She also had a young child to a new partner, and prison could harm the relationship with her child, he said.

But Judge Wilson refused the request, instead opting for a Crown recommendation of 18 months' prison. However, he deferred the start of her sentence while she applied for home detention.

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