The five Thai civilians who were also involved have, however, been charged with abduction and conspiracy to extort money by threats.
The couple, Igor Iermakov and his wife Maryna Iermakova, claimed that they had been abducted in an attempt to pressure them into repaying a US$500,000 (B15 million) debt owed to a company in the Ukraine called Fornus Ltd.
But this afternoon (December 20), at a press conference called by the Phuket office of the National Council for Peace and Order at Provincial Hall, Vladimir Evladov, representing Fornus, said the company had not loaned money to the couple.
He alleged that Mr Iermakov had embezzled the money, in small amounts, over the past year. This, he said, was a crime, not a civil matter of an unpaid debt. The company wanted Mr Iermakov arrested and the money returned.
Maj Gen Teenachat Jinda-Ngern, Commander of the 41st Military Circle under Region 4 Military Base in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, explained, “A group of people informed the military that the accused couple had come from Ukraine to hide in Phuket.
“We checked evidence brought by the representative of the company. At first we were going to go through the formal process, but because there were concerns the couple might flee, the Ukranian company asked the military to handle the matter.
“We decided to be the mediator between Fornus Ltd and Igor.
“During the operation I was kept informed in every step. According to the evidence given to us, Igor borrowed money from the company [without the company’s knowledge], and accepted that he was wrong to do so and agreed to repay the company.
“During the negotiations, however, Igor’s wife lodged a complaint with the [Chalong] police station, saying that she was scared, and feared the soldiers would abduct her and her husband.
“Once Chalong police arrived at the scene of where the negotiation was ongoing, there was a misunderstanding. I understand that the police did what they were suppose to do, but they might have misunderstood the role of the military in the situation.
“We acted under Martial Law, which is concerned with the security of the country. The reason we needed to be here [in Phuket – which is supposedly under the command of the Royal Thai Navy] is that there are certain details in the rules and regulations of the Army that the Navy might not be precise about.
“We neither asked for nor received any personal benefits for our part in the matter. We never threatened anyone.
“The five civilians are not related to or connected to the soldiers involved in the case.”
The Chalong Police insisted that a crime had been committed by the five Thais – four men and a woman – and they have been charged with threatening, abduction and extortion.
The five were released on bail of B100,000 each.
However, this afternoon the five came to the press conference at provincial hall right after the various military personnel and officials had finished their explanations and told reporters that they were asked by the soldiers to act as interpreters in this case, and had no intention of acting like gangsters or threatening the couple.
Mrs Iermanova, who was judged to have had nothing to with the disappearing money, was freed without charges. But Mr Iermakov was taken to a hotel in Chalong where he is being held until the matter can be sorted out to everyone’s satisfaction.
Mr Evladov told the press that he hopes Mr Iermakov will be deported soon to face trial in the Ukraine.
When asked how he had tracked down the couple, he said that their social networks had been monitored until they were seen engaging from Phuket.