Authorities in Thailand are trying to get to the bottom of a curious case involving Bangkok police and a ring of alleged South Korean online gambling operators. Earlier this week, local media reported that seven police officers – including two inspectors – were being investigated over allegations that they’d kidnapped three South Korean nationals and held them for ransom until the other members of the Koreans’ illegal online gambling ring paid them Bt 2m (US $61k).
The allegations came at an inopportune time, given the country’s ongoing investigation of several senior officials in the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) accused of soliciting bribes from a massive illegal online sports betting ring.
On Friday (9), the CSD received a complaint from some South Korean nationals that three of their countrymen had been kidnapped. A CSD team was dispatched to investigate but the three Koreans were eventually found unharmed at the Seacon Square shopping complex. The three claimed they’d been released after paying some money to their kidnappers.
On Tuesday, the picture became somewhat clearer. Police now say the three South Koreans were detained during a raid on a condominium after a tip-off that the condo was hosting an illegal online gambling operation. The three suspects were taken into custody then released after questioning, after which the three claim to have been kidnapped by two other South Korean nationals.
The three abductees said they paid their kidnappers Bt 500k from funds they had at the condo and contacted their relatives to transfer a further Bt 200k to the kidnappers’ bank accounts. The spooked relatives contacted the police, a fact that somehow became knowledge to the kidnappers, who then released their hostages at the mall.
On Tuesday, police issued an arrest warrant for one of the alleged kidnappers and are awaiting a warrant for suspect #2. However, the Bangkok Post reported that investigators are still trying to determine why the police who raided the condo brought along a civilian interpreter rather than a police translator, suggesting the cops may not be completely off the hook just yet.
UPDATE: Early Thursday, the Phuket News reported that a total of 12 police officers are now under investigation for allegedly colluding with the two kidnappers. The Bt 500k ‘ransom’ was apparently paid in exchange for the police not prosecuting the trio on illegal gambling charges. Kim Seung-cheul, one of the two kidnappers, has since been detained for questioning while police are still searching for the other suspect, Zhou Chung-chul, who served as the interpreter.