Singapore—Police said that a Singaporean man named Mark Cheng Jin Quan was kidnapped in Thailand and held until his ransom of 1.4 million baht (S$62,450) was paid in bitcoins.
Fortunately, police were able to arrest the kidnapper and most of the ransom money has been recovered.
The thirty-two-year-old Mr Cheng arrived in Bangkok on January 9 and had taken a taxi from the airport along with an acquaintance, Lee Wei Kim, age 31.
Lianhe Wanbao reports that he came to Bangkok at Mr Lee’s invitation, to sit down with another individual who showed an interest in bitcoins.
After riding in the taxi for around an hour, the cab made a stop at a gasoline station on Suwintawong Road in Chachoengsao province. A black Ford Ranger pickup, which Mr Cheng thought was owned by a Thai actor, Chano Pemberger, whom he knew, was waiting there for him and Mr Lee. Mr Pemberger is now wanted by the police for questioning.
But to his surprise, Mr Cheng was taken captive by four or five men by himself, without Mr Lee, at the gasoline station. He was blindfolded and then drugged, and driven 135 kilometers east of Bangkok to the Kabin Buri district in the central province of Prachin Buri.
Lianhe Wanbao said that Mr Cheng was kicked, punched, had ice water thrown over him and was subject to electrical torture, with the captors saying his ransom price was US$1 million.
After the torture from his captors, Mr Cheng transferred 1.4 million baht (S$62,456) in bitcoins to Mr Lee.
Mr Cheng said that his life was threatened several times. “I could even smell the soil. I knew they were going to bury me alive,” he told Lianhe Wanbao.
On January 10, Mr Cheng was brought by his captors to the Ongkharak district in Nakhon Nayok province, where they left him.
Afterward, a driver who passed by and saw him picked Mr Cheng up and dropped him off at a nearby police station, The Straits Times (ST) quotes Chat Narong, the chief of Ongkharak police, as saying.
The Police Chief said that when Mr Cheng came into the station, “bruises on many parts of his body and his face could be clearly seen.”
The Thai Police immediately launched a coordinated manhunt for Mr Lee, who was found in a hotel room in Bangkok on Sunday (Jan 12).
According to Police Major General Chakrit Sawasdee, Chachoengsao’s police chief, Mr Lee has since been charged with a number of offences, including robbery, detention of others, physical assault and illegal possession of firearms which could lead to a life sentence.
Mr Lee has made a full confession to all the charges made against him and police have returned the 1.2 million Baht they were able to retrieve from him to Mr Cheng, according to Police Major Gen Chakrit.
At this point, Mr Cheng has elected to remain in Thailand, where he is expected to testify at the trial of Mr Lee.
In 2016, Mr Cheng, who is a software developer, became the first Singaporean to win the Queen’s Young Leaders Award from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, and is the co-founder of Avelife, a non-governmental organization that emphasizes the environment and social enterprise. -/TISG