Cambodia release casino murder suspect after realizing she was a hostage

new-world-casino-hotel-murderIn a bizarre twist to a Cambodian casino murder case, one of the four accused has been released after police realized she was a hostage of the other three suspects.

On Sunday, police in the Cambodian town of Bavet arrested four Vietnamese employees of the New World Casino & Hotel in connection with the death of Vietnamese citizen Ngueng Yang Yoeng, who’d crossed the border to gamble but wound up dead.

Police said the four accused – three women and one man – had lent Yoeng money when he went bust at the New World’s gaming tables, then held him against his will when he couldn’t pay his debt. They made Yoeng contact relatives back in Vietnam, then apparently beat him to death when his family couldn’t come up with enough dough.

However, police now say that one of the arrested women was actually another gambler who’d been held against her will at the hotel by the other three accused for 20 days. Cambodia Daily quoted serious crime bureau chief Kim Lay saying the woman had been lured by the other three to gamble at the casino, only to fall into the same ‘go broke and borrow money’ trap, which also led to the gang extorting money from her wealthy family in Vietnam.

Police said language issues were to blame for the delay in identifying the woman as a victim rather than an accomplice. Kong Chankhemarith, chief prosecutor of Svay Rieng provincial court, said the lack of adequate translators meant authorities “could not use our usual tactics of questioning” suspects.

The three remaining suspects have been charged with unlawful confinement. The investigation into precisely how Yoeng died is ongoing. Police now believe the murder was likely carried out by a fifth individual, a hired hitman who remains at large.