Australian Fugitive Arrested in Phnom Penh

 

An Australian fugitive wanted by Thai authorities for the murder of a former Hells Angels member was arrested in Phnom Penh on Thurs­day and is being held by immigration police, officials said Friday.

Antonio Bagnato, 26, was arrested by military police on a crowded street near Kandal Market in central Phnom Penh on Thursday af­ternoon after illegally crossing into Banteay Meanchey province earlier in the week, officials said.

He is alleged to have led the abduction and murder of his business partner, Wayne Schneider, whose naked body was found in a shallow grave near the Thai tourist town of Patta­ya on Wednesday.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Mr. Bagnato, who owns a boxing gym with Wayne Schneider, a former member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, was also wanted for questioning in Aus­tralia over the 2014 murder of a man named Brad Dillon, who was shot five times at close range outside a market in Sydney.

“Our forces investigated to find the suspect and then arrested him as he was walking alone toward the riverside near Kandal Market,” said Khan Daravuth, chief of the municipal military police’s investigations and judicial bureau. “Do not ask me how we found him.”

Mr. Daravuth said the investigation and subsequent arrest of Mr. Bagnato was carried out at the re­quest of Thai authorities and that the Australian was sent back to Thailand on Thursday night.

However, National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said Mr. Bagnato had in fact been handed over to the Interior Minis­try’s immigration department on Thursday night.

Contacted late Friday afternoon, Sok Phal, chief of the immigration department, said Mr. Bagnato had crossed the border illegally and would therefore be sent back to Australia when his superiors cleared the deportation. He said he was otherwise unconcerned with the fugitive’s alleged criminal history.

“He came into Banteay Mean­chey province via an illegal border crossing. Therefore, he committed a crime in our country and will be deported to his home country,” General Phal said, saying only that the illegal crossing had been made “recently.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak and Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the immigration department, said they had no information about the case.

Lim Sokha Raksmey, acting director of Cambodia’s Interpol bureau, said his office had not been involved in the operation. Australian Embassy officials could not be reached.

A video of Mr. Bangato’s arrest shows about a dozen military po­lice, including plainclothes officers, surrounding and handcuffing the burly Australian on a busy street. The suspect is then driven away on the back of a Honda Scoopy scooter, sandwiched between two officers.

The video was shared widely on Facebook, with many users speculating that Mr. Bagnato was an Islamic State operative.

“He is not ISIS,” Gen. Phal said. “You need to understand this about ISIS: It is not easy for ISIS to sneak into Cambodia.”

(Additional reporting by Matt Blomberg)

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