Police became aware of the crimes only after officers noticed two Chinese tourists, Li Peilin and Ming Xiang, standing in front of Patong Police Station at 10pm Sunday night (June 23), Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Wisan Panmanee explained at a press conference this morning.
The officers approached the couple and asked them what was wrong. The tourists explained that the driver of a taxi had kidnapped them and robbed them both at gunpoint.
The taxi driver had tied both their hands and feet with cable ties, drove around and used Ms Li’s credit card and ATM card to withdraw approximately B200,000 from her accounts, the officers were told.
Mr Ming said he had been robbed of around US$28,000 – more than B850,000 – in cash.
The couple had known each other and met several times in China and Thailand, police said.
During questioning by Patong Police investigating officers, Ms Li said that money had been withdrawn in Rawai, so the officers took the couple to Chalong Police Station to explain to investigators there what had happened, Gen Wisan said.
However, police started to doubt the information given by Ming during questioning and began to suspect his involvement in the crime, Gen Wisan added.
The officers eventually tracked down the rental car used in the kidnapping and robbery, a white Phuket-registered Toyota Yaris, which had been rented by Chinese national Wu Chengxi during the time that the kidnapping and extortion took place.
The car was returned to the rental agent the morning after the crime was carried out, Gen Wisan said.
Police were able to confirm through CCTV that Wu had made withdrawals from an ATM by using Ms Li’s credit card.
Police also confirmed that Ming had lied about also being bound hand and foot, and blindfolded. In the footage, Ming and Wu looked like they were friends, Gen Wisan noted.
Presented with the new evidence, Ming confessed during questioning that he and Wu had planned together to rob Ms Li, Gen Wisan said.
Wu had rented the car and pretended to be a taxi driver. He drove Ming and Li to a restaurant, where the couple had a meal. Afterwards, Ming called Wu to pick them up.
Wu used a fake gun to force Ms Li to tie Ming’s hands, before Wu tied Li’s hands and feet and blindfolded her.
Wu then drove to an ATM to withdraw money from Ms Li’s accounts, then kicked the couple out of the car at an intersection in Rawai leading to Nai Harn Beach, Gen Wisan said.
Police obtained arrest warrants for both Ming and Wu. Under the arrest warrants, both are to be charged with working together to commit kidnapping and robbery through deception, Gen Wisan said.
Police have Ming in custody, but Wu is already known to have fled the country, Gen Wisan added.
However, no explanation was given as to what steps were being taken to apprehend Wu.
“If police were unable to close this case, it would have caused very much damage to the image of Phuket and Thailand, and to [the image of] taxi drivers and the tourism industry,” Gen Wisan said.
“Thank you to everyone for your help in closing this case,” he added.