Five Chinese men accused of holding two bettors hostage for more than two months while trying to force them to repay gambling loans were sentenced on Thursday to 15 years in prison, while their ringleader received a 25-year sentence in absentia.
Chou Pi Long, the alleged mastermind of the scheme, remains at large, but five accomplices— Dai Xiao Hui, 35; Xue Wutong, 46; Xu Cheng, 41; Li Xihua, 59; and Wang Jie, 35—received 15-year prison terms for colluding in the plot.
“The court sentences defendant Chou Pi Long, also known as ‘Long,’ Chinese, to 25 years on charges of illegal detention,” Presiding Judge Ros Piseth said on Thursday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
A seventh defendant, 41-year-old Zhang Zhong Sheng, who had denied working for the loan scheme, was acquitted.
One of the two victims told military police that he had arrived at the NagaWorld casino on the evening of August 10 last year with $6,000 and promptly lost all of it gambling. He said he was then approached by men who loaned him $12,000 over the course of the evening out of a NagaWorld hotel room.
Two days later, the man said he was summoned to the same room and detained, then later moved to a guesthouse elsewhere in Phnom Penh where he was held for 75 days because he could not repay the loan. He said he was finally freed after the second victim, who has since withdrawn his complaint, threw a piece of paper out of the guesthouse window with his wife’s phone number and a plea for neighbors to help.
Though the arrested Chinese men initially told military police that they had kidnapped the victims, three of them—as well as Mr. Zhang, the seventh defendant—retracted their confessions during hearings in September.
Mr. Xu, Mr. Li and Mr. Wang all said that their work for the scheme consisted of finding gamblers who had just suffered losses and offering them loans. They blamed their supervisors for the kidnappings.