5 Russians arrested in crypto abduction case
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5 Russians arrested in crypto abduction case

Belarusian couple forced into van in Phuket and forced to transfer B31m in crypto

Police question one of five Russian men over the alleged abduction of a Belarusian couple in Phuket province. (Photo supplied/Achadthaya Chuenniran)
Police question one of five Russian men over the alleged abduction of a Belarusian couple in Phuket province. (Photo supplied/Achadthaya Chuenniran)

PHUKET: Police have arrested five Russian men accused of abducting a Belarusian couple on this resort island and forcing them to transfer 31 million baht worth of cryptocurrency before releasing them.

Police initially brought in four of the five Russians for questioning following a complaint by Albert Viviankou, 23, and his wife, whose name was not given. The couple alleged that a group of men abducted them in front of a restaurant near the Lor Rong intersection in Muang district around 10pm on Monday.

The couple were taken in a black Hyundai van and forced to transfer US$901,200, or about 31 million baht, worth of cryptocurrency. After the transfers were made, the gang released the couple, who immediately filed the complaint.

The first two Russian men were found in a room in the area, while the other two were held at Phuket airport as they were about to leave the country. All were taken to the Muang district police station for questioning, where they denied the charges.

Subsequently, a fifth suspect, reported to be the mastermind, was apprehended at a massage shop on Patong beach and interrogated separately. All five continued to deny involvement.

On Thursday, the Phuket Provincial Court approved arrest warrants for the four Russians initially taken in for questioning. The men initially refused to sign their names in the police record of their arrest. They were detained at the Muang station for legal action.

The five are Zalim Nalchikov, 37; Oleg Bogdanov, 30; Azamat Nagofv, 36; Islam Abdokov, 29; and Aslan Abazov, 36.

Police have initially charged them with robbery, coercion, illegal detention and related offences.

Some of the five Russian suspects involved in the alleged abduction of the Belusarian couple are interrogated by police. (Photo supplied/Achadthaya Chuenniran)

Forensic officials on Friday attempted to collect evidence from the alleged abduction van, but no evidence was found. However, evidence was obtained from a rented Toyota Fortuner used by the gang. The forensic team found a plastic basin, a kitchen knife, a folding knife, two rolls of adhesive tape, one roll of plastic rope, a stove lighter and a pair of scissors. All of the items were unused.

According to a source, the Belarusian couple told police that they were riding a motorcycle from a game shop in tambon Chalong in Muang district to their accommodation in tambon Talad Yai when the abduction took place.

As they were about to enter a side street, three men in a Hyundai van cut in front of their bike, forcing them into the van. The couple’s heads were covered with plastic bags, and the male victim was punched to compel them to transfer the cryptocurrency.

After the money was wired, the couple were released about a kilometre away from where they were abducted. The couple insisted they did not know the perpetrators, having entered Phuket since December last year, while the suspects arrived on the island just last month, the source said.

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