The man, identified by Thai police as a Ukrainian, Oleksandr Boychuk, also known as “Andrei”, has been identified as Russian Andrei Zabelin after a number of people in the Russian Far East recognised him from photographs posted online.
The Phuket News’ sister newspaper Novosti Phuketa quoted Russian newspapers as reporting that Zabelin is on a Russian police wanted list.
In 2005 he was found guilty of “intentionally causing serious harm to another person’s health” after a quarrel with a stranger who was smoking in the stairwell of his building. Zabelin ended the dispute by pointing an 18mm “non-lethal” handgun at the man’s face and firing a rubber bullet at him.
Despite Zabelin’s good military service record and his plea that he was acting in self-defence, a military court found him guilty. He fled before he could be locked up.
Later it was discovered that while serving in the Russian Navy Zabelin had been instrumental in the wholesale theft of Navy provisions.
Investigators discovered thefts that could be attributed to him amounting to about 49 million roubles (at that time equivalent to about B49 million).
Izvestia newspaper reported that Andrei fled to Phuket to avoid prosecution and was living on the island, with his family, using a Ukrainian passport.
Police last week issued an arrest warrant for Andrei for kidnapping and extortion, and Russian national Aleksandr Novichkov for kidnapping and attempted rape in relation to the kidnapping of Mr Slabinskiy and his girlfriend Yana Strizheus.
Mr Slabinskiy still remains missing, while Ms Strizheus was found injured in the Blue Garden Resort & Spa last Saturday (March 15).
News initially broke on March 14 that the couple, who were living in Kamala at the time, were feared kidnapped after a series of frantic phone calls to relatives back home asking for money.