Singaporean abducted by Singaporean in Thailand barters bitcoin for freedom: reports

Mark Cheng Jin Quan. Photo: Queen’s Young Leaders
Mark Cheng Jin Quan. Photo: Queen’s Young Leaders

A Singaporean man accused of the abduction, assault and ransom of his colleague in Thailand was in custody today, multiple outlets report. 

Thai police Sunday arrested the alleged kidnapper, Singaporean Lee Wei Kim, and recovered most of the ransom, worth THB1.4 million (US$46,000) and paid in bitcoin by Mark Cheng Jin Quan. Cheng, who stands accused of embezzlement back home, said he was astonished to learn his associate was the prime suspect.

“I didn’t expect my friend to be involved. I really don’t know who I can trust now,” Cheng was quoted in The New Paper

Thai actor Chano Pemberger, whose car police said was used in the kidnapping, is also under investigation.  

Cheng and Lee reportedly arrived Thursday at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport and departed together in a taxi. Lee asked to stop at a petrol station about an hour southeast of the capital in Chachoengsao province, where they were said to be ambushed by a group of masked men and hustled into a black Ford Ranger.

According to The Straits Times, they were taken north to the Kabin Buri district of Prachinburi province.

Cheng, 32, was beaten and forced to ransom himself via bitcoin. His odyssey through Thai provinces wasn’t over yet, as he was taken west the next day and ultimately dropped off in Nakhon Nayok province. There, he hitched a ride to a nearby police station and lodged a report.

A blurred out photo of him published by The New Paper showed him with a swollen face.

Thai police launched a manhunt for Lee and arrested him Sunday at a Bangkok hotel. They said they managed to recover THB1.2 million from him. 

He was charged with robbery, illegal detention, assault and illegal firearms possession. The police said he confessed to all counts. 

Thai news outlet Thairath said the vehicle used in the kidnapping was registered to Chano, a  24-year-old actor who appeared in several soap operas some years ago. 

Thai actor Chano Pemberger. Photo: Instagram
Thai actor Chano Pemberger. Photo: Instagram

Cheng, who is the founder of a startup nonprofit called Avelife Foundation, was charged in Singapore last year with dishonest misappropriation of over S$300,000 from an investment company in 2014 and is now out on bail, according to The New Paper.

It was a turn for Cheng, who just four years ago was personally granted an award from Queen Elizabeth for a project that helped the elderly exchange recyclable materials for groceries. 

The two men were said to have met through their bitcoin dealings.  

Mark Cheng receives the Queen’s Young Leaders award in 2016 from Queen Elizabeth.
Mark Cheng receives the Queen’s Young Leaders award in 2016 from Queen Elizabeth.


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