Singaporean man kidnapped in Thailand by fellow Singaporean, ransom paid in bitcoins


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BANGKOK - A Singaporean man was kidnapped by a fellow Singaporean in Thailand last week and released after transferring bitcoins worth some 1.4 million baht (S$62,450) to the captor, the police told The Straits Times on Monday (Jan 13).

The kidnapper has been arrested and most of the loot recovered.

Police said Mr Mark Cheng Jin Quan, 32, had taken a taxi with Lee Wei Kim, 31, after both arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport just outside Bangkok on Jan 9. Mr Cheng told the police they had not known each other for long.

Mr Cheng is the co-founder of Avelife, a non-governmental organisation which focuses on social enterprise and the environment. He was the first Singaporean to win the Queen’s Young Leaders Award from Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in 2016.

According to Mr Cheng's police testimony, after about an hour's ride, the taxi stopped at a petrol station on Suwintawong Road in Chachoengsao province where a black Ford Ranger pickup was parked. The vehicle, which Mr Cheng believed was owned by a Thai actor he knew, was waiting for them.

At the petrol station, Mr Cheng said he was taken hostage, a hood put over his head and driven to Kabin Buri district in the central province of Prachin Buri, some 135km east of Bangkok.

The police did not elaborate but one local news website, Khaosod, said a driver was waiting at the petrol station and Mr Cheng was whisked away in the Ford pickup.

Another news website, Thairath, said the owner of the pickup has been identified by police as 24-year-old Thai actor, Chano Pemberger, who would be summoned for questioning by the police.

Mr Cheng said he was beaten before he transferred the bitcoins to Lee.

A day after his kidnap, on Jan 10, Mr Cheng was dropped off in Ongkharak district in Nakhon Nayok province. A passing driver gave him a ride to a nearby police station, said Police Colonel Chat Narong, chief of Ongkarak police.

"Bruises on many parts of his body and his face could be clearly seen when he walked in," the police chief said.

A coordinated police manhunt was launched and Lee was arrested on Sunday in a hotel in Bangkok.

He was charged with several offences including robbery, detention of others, physical assault and illegal possession of firearms which could lead to a life sentence, said Police Major General Chakrit Sawasdee, Chachoengsao's police chief.

Lee confessed to all the charges. Thai police managed to retrieve 1.2 million baht from him and returned the amount to Mr Cheng, said Pol Maj Gen Chakrit.

The police said Mr Cheng remains in Thailand and is expected to testify at Lee's trial.

Singaporean man kidnapped in Thailand by fellow Singaporean, ransom paid in bitcoins