A Singapore businessman was kidnapped on a recent work trip to Thailand, tortured, and forced to transfer S$62,500 in Bitcoin to his abductors.
He narrowly escaped being shot in the head by using martial arts techniques.
Police have caught the mastermind behind the kidnapping: a fellow Singaporean who travelled with the victim to Thailand to negotiate a business deal.
The victim was allegedly kidnapped in a car belonging to Thai TV star Chano Pemberger, who is also under investigation.
A 32-year-old Singaporean went to Thailand for a work trip with a friend, got kidnapped in a celebrity’s car, was tortured, and paid his own ransom of S$62,500 in Bitcoin before escaping on Friday (Jan 10).
Now the victim – blockchain expert Mark Cheng Jin Quan – has said he can no longer trust anyone, after discovering the perpetrator was his very own travel buddy, fellow Singaporean Lee Wei Kim, 31.
In a Bangkok Post report, Cheng told police he had met Lee several years ago through Bitcoin dealings, and the pair flew to Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi airport on Thursday (Jan 9) to negotiate a business deal proposed by Lee.
According to The New Paper (TNP), Cheng was out on bail after being charged last year with misappropriating funds from an investment company.
The Straits Times (ST) cited police reports that the pair then took a taxi to the agricultural province of Chachoengsao, where they stopped at a petrol station to buy food.
There, Cheng spotted a black Ford Ranger pickup truck allegedly belonging to 24-year-old Thai-German TV star Chano Pemberger.
Chano and Cheng had met several times before for drinks, Bangkok Post said.
Cheng told Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao that several masked men exited the truck, and grabbed him and Lee. He was then blindfolded, punched, drugged, and driven to several forested locations, where his kidnappers stripped him, hit him, poured ice water over him, and administered electric shocks.
They also demanded US$1 million (S$1.4 million) in Bitcoin.
According to TNP, Cheng said he had feared for Lee’s life, as he thought Lee was also abducted.
After transferring his abductors 1.4 million baht (S$62,400) in Bitcoin, Cheng was taken to a hut in a padi field and a gun pointed at his head, TNP said.
Wanbao quoted Cheng saying: “One of them held the gun against the back of my head while the others stepped away. Fortunately, I know martial arts, (so) I reached behind my head, grabbed the pistol, then fled.”
The heavily-bruised businessman hailed a passing car, which drove him to a police station in the nearby Nakhon Nayok province.
TNP said police arrested Lee on Sunday in a Bangkok hotel following a manhunt. ST said Lee confessed to all the charges, and police recovered 1.2 million baht (S$53,400) from him.
According to the Bangkok Post and Wanbao, police detained four other suspects and found equipment linked to the kidnapping in one of the suspect’s homes.
They have also summoned Chano for questioning.
Wanbao reported that Cheng was shocked to discover Lee was behind the kidnap.
“I didn’t expect my friend to be involved. I really don’t know who I can trust now,” he said.