The leader of a group of six Chinese nationals who were charged on Monday with kidnapping and illegally detaining three Chinese businessmen did not flee to his home country as previously thought, and may still be in Cambodia, a military police official said on Wednesday.
Seven Chinese nationals were arrested in Phnom Penh last week on suspicion of kidnapping the Sihanoukville-based businessmen, who had failed to pay back money they borrowed with interest. The accused allegedly kidnapped the trio about two months earlier in the hope of forcing their relatives in China to pay off the debts.
Seng Komon, chief of the municipal military police human-trafficking bureau, said on Wednesday that six members of the group were charged with aggravated illegal detention on Monday, while the last was released from custody. If found guilty, the group could face up to 30 years in prison.
Investigators initially believed their leader escaped on a flight to China last week, shortly before the arrest of his bodyguard, Zhang Zhong Zheng, on December 16. They now suspect he is either in Cambodia or Vietnam, Mr. Komon said.
“Their ringleader has not escaped to China, but has escaped to the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, or fled to Vietnam, and our military police forces are working on this case,” he said. “We will not reveal the Chinese ringleader’s name…but our forces are focusing on him.”
According to military police, the three debtors were driven to Phnom Penh at some point after they were kidnapped two months ago, and locked in a house in Meanchey district. They were rescued on December 14 after tossing a note out of a window with a request for help and contact information for their Cambodian girlfriends.
Officials at the Chinese Embassy declined to comment on Wednesday.