Five Russian tourists arrested for allegedly abducting a Belarusian couple, extorting ฿31 million in cryptocurrency. The victims narrate a harrowing ordeal, recounting threats and violence. However, the arrested Russians strenuously deny charges, posing a significant challenge for Phuket police racing against time to build their case.
Police in Phuket are racing against time to put together a case against five Russian men on the island facing charges of extorting a Belarusian couple out of ฿31 million with threats of extreme violence. However, after arresting the gang, the Russians refused to cooperate. They insisted they were nothing but innocent tourists on the international holiday island.
Five Russian nationals were arrested this week on warrants issued by Phuket Provincial Court. Police sought them out for their alleged involvement in the abduction and extortion of a Belarusian couple.
The husband was named as 23 year old Albert Viviankou but his wife remains unnamed at this point.
The story unfolded last Wednesday evening near Lor Rong intersection in the Mueang district of Phuket.
Latest outrage comes amid raised concerns about Russian criminality on the island, an international holiday haven. Couple were kidnapped and intimidated
This latest outrage comes amid rising anxiety about Russian gangs and criminality. At length, the concern is that it is beginning to damage the island’s reputation as a tourist haven.
The couple told police a harrowing tale. They accused a group of Russian men of abducting them in front of a local restaurant.
The pair had been travelling home on a motorbike from Chalong. In a narrow street, they were intercepted by a van. After that, men emerged, covered their heads with bags and bundled them into the vehicle.
A black Hyundai van became their prison where they were threatened and tormented by the Russians. The men repeatedly punched Mr Viviankou before moving on to other threats.
Couple told police investigators of the terror they endured in the van. They acquiesced to transferring ฿31 million in cryptocurrency assets to the gang
Afterwards, they told investigators they were coerced into transferring ฿31 million worth of cryptocurrency. The pair were terrified and feared for their lives.
In short, the equivalent of $901,200 was extorted. Despite their trauma, not long after, they filed a formal complaint with local police.
At length, this came after the pair found their bearings after being dropped 1km from where they were abducted. They were not familiar with the island nor did they know who the perpetrators were.
Initial police enquiries led to the arrest of four Russians. Two were found holed up in a room in the southern part of the province. In addition, two others were intercepted at Phuket International Airport. The men were obviously attempting to flee the country.
Russians, after being arrested by Phuket police, simply refused to acknowledge the crime or that they were involved with the violent extortion in anyway
Taken to Mueang Phuket police station for questioning, the four men strenuously denied any involvement in the alleged abduction and extortion.
However, a Toyota Fortuner used by the men was found with suspicious items. These include adhesive tape, scissors, a basin, a lighter and plastic rope used to torture the couple.
The plot became murkier with the subsequent arrest of a fifth suspect.
Certainly, police were informed that this individual was the orchestrator of the extortion plot.
That arrest took place at a massage shop on the vibrant Patong beach.
Following this, investigators set to work interrogating the suspects. The men were grilled separately in an intensive police effort to get to the bottom of the affair.
Despite this and the gravity of the criminal charges levelled against them, police did not make progress. All five Russian men refused to cooperate and denied any involvement with the case.
Four Russians refused to acknowledge their arrest and the charges against them after being detained by Phuket police and brought in on foot of warrants
Thursday marked a pivotal moment as court approval for arrest warrants was sought and granted for the four Russians initially subjected to questioning.
The Phuket Provincial Court issued the warrants, yet the accused Russians, defiant in their stance, refused to ink their names in the police record of arrest.
Nevertheless, they are currently being held in detention at Mueang Station, awaiting the wheels of legal action to move.
Officers working on the case are determined to keep them locked up. Moreover, they will certainly oppose any bail request as the prosecution progresses given the testimony of the victims.
Investigators afterwards released the identities of the accused men.
They are 37-year-old Zalim Nalchikov, 30-year-old Oleg Bogdanov, 36-year-old Azamat Nagof, 29-year-old Islam Abdokov and 36-year-old Aslan Abazov.
Police sources confirm that the men unquestionably still face legal proceedings.
Russians face charges and prosecution despite their denials. However, police enquiries into the affair are ongoing with investigators seeking more information
These include charges of robbery, coercion and illegal detention. Furthermore, they face an array of related offences linked to their violent intimidation of the abducted couple.
Phuket Police Commander Police Major General Sinlert Sukhum unveiled details of the alleged abduction and violent extortion. He explained the couple fell victim to the criminal enterprise near an eatery on Hongyok Utis Road in Mueang District around 8:30 pm on Wednesday.
The modus operandi: a forced cryptocurrency transfer under duress. The initial four Russian suspects maintained a facade of innocence.
In short, they insisted on their status as ordinary tourists who arrived in Phuket in mid-December. They feigned ignorance about the victims.
Immigration Bureau involved in the case, police also want to make sure the suspects cannot leave Phuket
In the meantime, the investigation is widening its net to ensure the alleged fraudsters face justice. Phuket Police are actively engaging with the island’s Immigration Bureau. They are exploring the background of the men.
Furthermore, Immigration police subsequently confirmed the Russians only arrived in Phuket in mid-December.
In addition, they have placed a block on the Russians leaving Phuket during the legal process.
Story has similarities to a 2022 case on Ko Samui
The story of the Belarussian couple’s ordeal is similar to a case in 2022 in Ko Samui.
Following that episode, a terrified Russian couple applied to join Thailand’s Witness Protection Programme.
Similarly, police at the time revealed that, again, short-term tourists were responsible. They included a Kazakh, German and Russian who had travelled in a van from Pattaya.
Intimidated Russian couple ask Royal Thai police to join Thailand’s Witness Protection Programme in Ko Samui
31-year-old Mr Evgenii Abdullin and his wife Ekaterina were forced to transfer $50,000 in cryptocurrency.
This occurred on September 15th 2022 at a popular café in the Taling-ngam area of Ko Samui.