Kidnap Gang Leader Busted After Shootout

Hout Ravuth allegedly netted al­most $800,000 in a four-year kidnapping spree that police believe they ended this week.

“This is the end of his career,” said Phnom Penh Municipal Police Commissioner Sourn Ch­hengly. “He is the last great kidnapper in Cambodia.”

Authorities believe the 35-year-old former medical student quit his studies and launched a career as a kidnapper in 1997, eventually becoming the leader of a criminal gang of 30 and netting $789,000 in ransoms, Sourn Chhengly said.

He first gained notoriety in 1999 after the 1999 kidnapping of Sam Rainsy parliamentarian Lon Phon, which Hout Ravuth was ac­cused of masterminding. Lon Phon was later released un­harmed after his family reportedly paid a ransom of $140,000.

At the time, Sam Rainsy Party members accused the government of orchestrating the kidnapping as a warning to other opposition members.

They said the failure to arrest Hout Ravuth was evidence of official sanction.

Hout Ravuth is accused of leading eight other kidnappings, in­cluding the 1998 abduction of an Electricite du Cambodge official, who was killed after relatives failed to meet ransom demands.

The gang last struck in August, 2000, when they allegedly ab­ducted the son of a Finance Min­istry official, police said.

Police shot Hout Ravuth in the leg Monday in Banteay Mean­chey province as he tried to es­cape, Sourn Chhengly said.

He is now under guard at Preah Monivong Hos­pital, being cared for by his wife, also a former medical student, and his 2-year-old son, police said.

All but nine other gang members, including Hout Ravuth’s brother, a policeman, are in custody, police said.

Last year, police shot and killed suspected kidnapper Sam Nara, after a shootout in Phnom Penh.

Police said Sam Nara threatened police with a grenade as he lay bleeding under a tree.

Known as “Rasmach,” Sam Nara allegedly extorted more than $1.2 million in two years.

 

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