Three people have been arrested at airports in Phnom Penh and Thailand for allegedly kidnapping a colleague, stealing cash and transferring money from the victim’s phone, with a fourth suspect still at large.
The incident took place in Pursat province on October 18. The five men worked at a company in MDS Thmor Da SEZ in Veal Veng district, which is linked to logging tycoon Try Pheap and alleged global scam operations.
Mo Lida, deputy provincial police chief, said the four people had fooled the fifth person into thinking they were going for drinks, but instead abducted their colleague, tied him to a tree in a wooded area, and threatened him with a knife. They took a code to the company safe and the victim’s phone to transfer funds via a money transfer application.
A day later, three of them tried to flee the country: One of them was caught at the Phnom Penh airport and the two others successfully exited Cambodia but were arrested on arrival in Bangkok, Lida added.
“There are four people and we have arrested three and one has escaped. After having arrested them, we are preparing the case to send to the court tomorrow,” he said.
According to the victim, the four took $90,000 from the safe and transferred $190,000 using the phone, but one of the victims said they only took $60,000 and divided it up among themselves.
Police are still looking for the fourth suspect, Lida said.
Lida said Pursat provincial authorities had received at least 12 requests so far for rescues but claimed that in most cases the alleged victims were unaware of the complaint and wanted to remain at the company they worked at. Families missed their relatives and filed accusations of labor exploitation and confinement, which turned out to be false accusations, he said.
He added that companies had “never hidden” anything from the authorities and would help to find the person who was named in the complaint. In one case, a man was shocked that his wife had named him as a victim and took a taxi straight back to the company, Lida added.
The government, NGOs and media have reported numerous desperate pleas for help at scam compounds peppered across the country, often making accusations of forced labor, torture and confinement.Police have been cracking down on “illegal gambling” operations across the country, especially in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, but have stopped short of calling these operations as cryptocurrency and investment fraud. Thousands of foreigners have been released from scam compounds, with reports suggesting operations have moved elsewhere in Cambodia or overseas.