The Public Prosecutor’s Office for Russia’s Far East region Primorsky Krai announced on Thursday (June 21) that his office had handed to the court a criminal case involving some “Mr. Z”, accused of kidnapping, extortion, murder and more. (See notice here.)
The announcement was posted on the Public Prosecutor’s Office website under the following headline: “Court in Primorie [Primorsky Krai] will hear a case of a series of crimes against person and property committed by a group of persons”.
As follows from a vague description in the announcement, some of the episodes took place in Thailand and the only matching case reported by Thai and international media is the resonant case of Slabinskiy/Strizheus dating back to 2014.
Russian national Alexei Slabinskiy and his girlfriend Yana Strizheus went missing in Phuket in early March 2014. The search for the couple started after they called their relatives claiming that they were in trouble in Phuket, and urgently needed US$100,000 to solve some unexpected problems. After the call, Mr Slabinskiy and Ms Strizheus’s cell phones went silent, and their concerned families raised the alarm.
Ms Strizheus was then found wounded but alive at a local hotel, the dead body of her partner was discovered only weeks later. Ms Strizheus told the police that they were kidnapped for extortion of money. (See story here.)
Phuket Police issued an arrest warrant for two suspects both being Russian nationals: Aleksandr Novichkov and Andrei Zabelin. The latter was later identified by Russian media as an ex-officer wanted by local police for two crimes since 2005. (See story here.)
The announcement by the Public Prosecutor’s office in Russia on Thursday said that the “deputy prosecutor of Primorsky Krai approved the criminal indictment on charges against Z. who is accused of kidnapping committed by a group of persons on preliminary conspiracy, extortion committed with causing grave harm to the health of the victim, illegal deprivation of liberty committed by a group of persons, murder”.*
“According to the investigation, the person who was wanted for a previously committed crime since 2005, stayed on the territory of the Kingdom of Thailand, where he got acquainted with a certain citizen. During the conversations with this citizen, the person learned that the latter had a large amount of money in his bank accounts, which he decided to take possession of by means of extortion,” the announcement continued.
“For the purpose of committing the crime, the suspect lured the victim to come to a villa where the suspect’s accomplice was waiting. The victim was chained to a bed and demanded to transfer money in the amount of US$100,000. Not having received a positive decision, they fraudulently lured to the villa the female partner of the victim, where, using violence, forced her to obey and drive to an ATM to withdraw the required amount. Following a similar scheme, they received about B100,000.”
The Public Prosecutor’s Office of Primorsky Krai does not name directly any of the suspects or the victims, so it is yet to be confirmed whether or not the case that judges in Russia are ready to hear is the notorious Slabinskiy/Strizheus incident in Phuket. The fact that the murder of the victim is not mentioned in the text raises doubts as well.
However, The Phuket News has failed to find information about any other crimes committed in Thailand by a Russian national that match the description provided by the Russian prosecutors.
According to Russian officials, “the criminal case has been sent to court for hearing on the merits. The second suspect remains at large”.
Of note, the announcement also mentions another restriction of liberty and murder committed by Mr. Z in Russia after fleeing from Thailand. Prosecutors claim that the suspect committed that crime with his ex-wife who was classified as an accomplice, charged with restriction of liberty and will face the court as well. It is yet to be clarified if the woman could have been involved in kidnapping, extortion and murder in Phuket.
If Mr. Z and Zabelin is one person then the known criminal record of this ex-military man includes at least: shooting a man in the face with a 18mm “non-lethal” handgun causing serious injury; wholesale theft of Navy provisions worth at that time an equivalent to about B49 million; kidnapping Yana Strizheus; kidnapping Alexei Slabinskiy, extorting money and murdering the victim; detaining a woman (another woman in Russia’s Krasnodarskiy region, not Ms Strizheus) against her will and murdering her.
* Some standard bureaucratic stamps, numbers of sections of Russian Criminal Code and other details omitted. For original text in Russian, click here.