Police in Phuket have detained five Russian men suspected of kidnapping a Belarusian couple on this resort island and forced them to transfer over 3o million baht ($860,000) in cryptocurrency before releasing them.
Police first detained four of the five Russians for questioning after receiving a complaint from Albert Viviankou, 23, and his wife, whose name was not revealed. The couple said that at around 10 p.m. on Monday, a gang of men abducted them in front of a restaurant near the Lor Rong crossroads in Muang district.
The pair was led away in a black Hyundai van and compelled to transfer over US$860,000, or approximately 30 million baht, in cryptocurrencies. Following the transfers, the gang freed the couple, who promptly filed the complaint.
The first two Russian males were discovered in a nearby room, while the other two were detained at Phuket International Airport as they prepared to leave the country. All were escorted to the Muang district police station and questioned, where they disputed the charges.
A fifth person, believed to be the mastermind, was captured at a massage establishment on Patong Beach and interviewed separately. All five continued to deny involvement.
On Thursday, the Phuket Provincial Court authorised arrest warrants for the Russians first detained for questioning.
Phuket Police Release Identities of Russians
The men first refused to sign their identities on the police report after their arrest. They were detained at the Muang station pending judicial action. The five are: Zalim Nalchikov, 37; Oleg Bogdanov, 30; Azamat Nagofv, 36; Islam Abdokov, 29; and Aslan Abazov, 36.
Phuket Police first charged them with robbery, coercion, illegal detention, and other offences.
On Friday, forensic officers sought to collect evidence from the purported abduction van but found none. The gang’s leased Toyota Fortuner, on the other hand, provided evidence.
The forensic team discovered a plastic basin, a kitchen knife, a folding knife, two rolls of adhesive tape, one length of plastic rope, a stove lighter and a set of scissors. All of the things were unused.
According to a source, the Belarusian couple informed police that they were riding a motorbike from a game shop in tambon Chalong in Muang district to their lodging in tambon Talad Yai when they were abducted.
As they were going to approach a side street, three males in a Hyundai van cut in front of their bike, forcing them inside. The couple’s heads were covered in plastic bags, and the male victim was punched to force them to transfer the cryptocurrency.
After the money was wired, the couple was freed roughly a kilometer from where they were kidnapped. The couple insisted they knew nothing about the perpetrators, despite the fact that they had been in Phuket since December of last year, while the suspects had only recently arrived, according to the source.
Russians Flocking to Phuket
Phuket, a well-known Thai tourist destination, has recently seen an increase in the number of Russian visitors.
With more than 400,000 Russians visiting in Phuket between January and July, the island has become a favourite place for Russian tourists. This rapid spike has piqued the interest of both residents and officials.
The fast surge in Russian visitors has improved the local economy while also raising concerns among the locals. Rising property prices and the advent of “Russian-only” businesses have spurred controversy over Phuket’s shifting characteristics.
As more Russians visit Phuket, some residents have conflicting opinions about the situation. While there are obvious economic benefits, there is growing dissatisfaction of Russia’s perceived domination in certain areas.
The migration of Russians to Phuket has clearly changed the island’s dynamic.