Phuket Provincial Court has sentenced five Russian nationals to two years in prison in a case of kidnapping and cryptocurrency extortion.

Five Russians have been sentenced to two years in prison by a Phuket provincial court for kidnapping a Russian couple on the resort island. The convicted Russians forced the kidnapped victims to transfer cryptocurrency worth more than 30 million baht to the robbers’ e-wallets.

The court initially sentenced the five defendants to four years in prison for conspiracy to coerce, unlawful restraint, and related offences. However, their guilty pleas reduced the sentences by two years, each without suspended sentences.

The Phuket Provincial Court judgement was announced at 2 pm on Wednesday. According to the court, the five men were found guilty of kidnapping the Russian couple, although a previous police report indicated the victims were citizens of Belarus.

The kidnapping took place on January 31 at a well-known hotel in the centre of Phuket. A passing tourist witnessed the couple being forced into a black Hyundai van with a red number plate and reported the incident to police.

Police found the victims and, with the help of an interpreter, ascertained the details of the crime. The couple was kidnapped near their residence and held in a rented house where the Belarusians were forced to transfer $801’200 worth of cryptocurrency. After the couple made the transfers, the gang released the victims.

The victims said that they visited a shop in Chalong before the kidnapping, and when they were returning home, the couple were intercepted by three assailants in a Hyundai with red licence plates. The assailants covered the man’s head with a black bag and forced him to transfer cryptocurrency using physical violence. After receiving the money, the criminals released the couple a kilometre away from the abduction site.

After gathering evidence and witness testimony, authorities issued arrest warrants for five suspects: Salim Nalchikov, 37; Oleg Bogdanov, 30; Achamat Nagov, 36; Islam Abdokov, 29; and Aslan Abazov, 36. All are Russian citizens.

Police are questioning one of five Russians in the case of a couple’s abduction in Phuket province (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)

The first two Russians were arrested in a rented room in the area, while the other two were detained at Phuket airport as they were about to leave the country. Subsequently, a fifth suspect believed to be the organiser of the crime, was detained at a massage parlour on Patong Beach. All five suspects initially denied involvement.

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