Authorities detained five Russian individuals for allegedly kidnapping a Belarusian couple on this resort island and forcing them to transfer cryptocurrency valued at 31 million baht before setting them free.
Following a complaint lodged by 23-year-old Albert Viviankou and his wife, whose name remains undisclosed, police interrogated four out of the five Russians.
The duo claimed they were kidnapped outside a restaurant near the Lor Rong intersection in Muang district at about 10 pm on Monday.
The abductors transported the couple in a black Hyundai van and demanded a cryptocurrency transfer amounting to US$901,200, approximately 31 million baht.
Once the transaction was completed, the couple was released and immediately reported the incident.
Two of the Russian suspects were discovered in a room in the area, while the remaining two were arrested at Phuket airport as they attempted to depart the country. They were all taken to the police station in Muang district for questioning and denied all allegations.
A fifth suspect, believed to be the ringleader, was later arrested at a massage shop on Patong beach and questioned separately, but he also denied any involvement.
The Phuket Provincial Court issued arrest warrants on Thursday for the four Russians who were first brought in for questioning.
Initially, these individuals declined to formally acknowledge their arrest by signing the police record. They have been held at the Muang station to face legal proceedings.
The accused individuals are Zalim Nalchikov, aged 37; Oleg Bogdanov, aged 30; Azamat Nagofv, aged 36; Islam Abdokov, aged 29; and Aslan Abazov, aged 36.
They face charges including robbery, coercion, illegal detention, and related offenses.
Forensic teams attempted to gather evidence from the van suspected of being used in the kidnapping on Friday but found none.
However, evidence was collected from a Toyota Fortuner rented by the culprits, uncovering a plastic basin, a kitchen knife, a folding knife, two rolls of adhesive tape, a roll of plastic rope, a lighter, and scissors, all unused.
The Belarusian couple informed the police that they were intercepted and forced into the van by three men while riding a motorcycle from a game shop in tambon Chalong to their lodging in tambon Talad Yai.
The abductors covered their heads with plastic bags and physically assaulted the male victim to force the cryptocurrency transfer.
After transferring the funds, the couple was released a kilometer from the abduction site.
They claimed no prior knowledge of their abductors, noting their arrival in Phuket since the previous December, while the suspects had only arrived on the island the preceding month.