$54 000 USD
DESCRIPTION OF EVENTS
"In 2016, Mr Cheng, who is a software developer, became the first Singaporean to win the Queen’s Young Leaders Award from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, and is the co-founder of Avelife, a non-governmental organization that emphasizes the environment and social enterprise." "[F]our years ago [he] was personally granted an award from Queen Elizabeth for a project that helped the elderly exchange recyclable materials for groceries."
"Cheng, who is the founder of a startup nonprofit called Avelife Foundation, was charged in Singapore [in 2019] with dishonest misappropriation of over S$300,000 from an investment company in 2014 and is now out on bail, according to The New Paper." "He was accused of misappropriating $323,052 belonging to an investment company in 2014." "Cheng [was also] a former blockchain adviser with Singapore fintech company X Infinity."
"Cheng was given bail of $120,000 for permission to go to Thailand and Malaysia for work-related matters." "Mark Cheng Jin Quan was supposed to be on a one-day trip to Thailand on Jan 9." "Mark Cheng Jin Quan arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok with another Singaporean, Lee Wei Kim, 31, on Jan. 9 and boarded a taxi." "32-year-old Mark Cheng Jin Quan had decided to take a taxi with fellow Singaporean Lee Wei Kim on 9 January 2020 after both of them arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport (Bangkok Airport)."
"He said he met Lee a few years back, but they became closer only over the past year when Lee wanted to learn more about bitcoin mining." "He informed the Thai police that they “had not known each other for long”, but shared with Lianhe Wanbao that they first met each other a few years ago because of his business." "He asserted that it was Lee who urged him to go to Thailand for a business deal negotiation, reports The New Paper."
"The thirty-two-year-old Mr Cheng arrived in Bangkok on January 9 and had taken a taxi from the airport along with an acquaintance, Lee Wei Kim, age 31." "Lianhe Wanbao reports that he came to Bangkok at Mr Lee’s invitation, to sit down with another individual who showed an interest in bitcoins." "According to The Straits Times, both men did not know each other for long. Speaking to Lianhe Wanbao, Cheng, who is a software developer, said that Lee had invited him to Bangkok to meet a friend who is interested in technology and bitcoins." "I didn't know where we were going. I trusted him completely. We were on a trip together before," said Cheng
"After an hour, the taxi reached a petrol station on Suwintawong Road in Chachoengsao province." "After riding in the taxi for around an hour, the cab made a stop at a gasoline station on Suwintawong Road in Chachoengsao province. A black Ford Ranger pickup, which Mr Cheng thought was owned by a Thai actor, Chano Pemberger, whom he knew, was waiting there for him and Mr Lee. Mr Pemberger is now wanted by the police for questioning."
"Cheng told Lianhe Wanbao that he and Lee were apprehended by four or five masked men and transferred to a black car." "[T]o his surprise, Mr Cheng was taken captive by four or five men by himself, without Mr Lee, at the gasoline station." "Cheng claimed that he was then blindfolded and hooded before he was drugged." "He was blindfolded and then drugged, and driven 135 kilometers east of Bangkok to the Kabin Buri district in the central province of Prachin Buri."
"Cheng claimed that it was then that he was grabbed by a group of masked men, blindfolded and bundled into a car." "I was forced to drink some orange juice. Then, my lips went numb," said Cheng. "He later found himself held at a house, which was in Kabin Buri district of Prachin Buri province, some 135km east of Bangkok." "His legs were tied to a chair with his hands tied together, he said, and he was kept blindfolded most of the time."
"The victim, Mark Cheng, claimed that he wasn’t just kidnapped; when he was held, he was attacked brutally by his captor, whom he knew personally." "Cheng was beaten and tortured by his captors. According to Lianhe Wanbao, Cheng was subjected to electric torture, doused in ice water, and kicked and punched." "He told Chinese-language evening daily Lianhe Wanbao that he was taken to four different locations in forested areas where he was tortured for 12 hours."
"According to Cheng, there was one main captor who spoke to him in English, but at times he heard other voices speaking in Thai." "His captors demanded US$1 million worth of bitcoins, he told Lianhe Wanbao." "Police said that a Singaporean man named Mark Cheng Jin Quan was kidnapped in Thailand and held until his ransom of 1.4 million baht (S$62,450) was paid in bitcoins."
"I told my captor I didn't have that much. I'm not wealthy," said Cheng, who transferred over 5.9 bitcoins that he and his friends owned, worth 1.4 million baht (S$62,340). "The captor then allegedly forced him to call his mother and his friends to get more money, but no one answered as it was well past midnight." "Cheng would eventually only hand over about 1.4 million baht (S$62,456) worth of bitcoins to his captors, according to ST."
"However, Lianhe Wanbao reported that his captors demanded more and intended to shoot him." "Apparently dissatisfied with the amount they got, the group took Cheng to another location where they threatened to kill him." "He said he was forced to kneel on a grass patch, and had a gun was pressed against his head and then put into his mouth."
"At one point, Cheng believed that his captors planned to bury him alive, he later recounted to the Chinese paper." "Blindfolded, he heard them using tools to dig what he guessed was in a forested area." "I could even smell the soil. I knew they were going to bury me alive," he told the Chinese daily. "Even though Cheng paid his captors more than $60,000 in Bitcoin for his freedom, he told police Kim was still going to execute him at gunpoint until he managed to escape at the last minute." "Fortunately, I know martial arts. I reached behind my head and grabbed the pistol, and then I fled," he said. He said "he managed to loosen the strings that bound his wrists, and knocked the gun out of the kidnapper's hand and punched him before fleeing, he said. "This was my last chance. I mustered all the strength I had." "He said he hid in a nearby water ditch, where he stayed until he was sure the coast was clear."
"Eventually, his captors let him go after Mark paid them SGD$54K worth of bitcoins." "On January 10, Mr Cheng was brought by his captors to the Ongkharak district in Nakhon Nayok province, where they left him." "He found his way to a road but, covered in mud, found that no passing cars would pick him up."
"Lianhe Wanbao reported that Cheng managed to escape and he found a police station on Jan. 10." "[A] driver who passed by and saw him picked Mr Cheng up and dropped him off at a nearby police station, The Straits Times (ST) quotes Chat Narong, the chief of Ongkharak police, as saying." "A man eventually picked him up on his motorcycle and dropped him off at Ongkarak police station in Nakhon Nayok province, about an hour and a half drive from Bangkok. By this time, the sun had begun to rise." "The victim hailed a passing vehicle for help and asked to be taken to a police station. That was when he realised he was in Nakhon Nayok's Ongkharak district."
"There, he reported his case." "The Police Chief said that when Mr Cheng came into the station, “bruises on many parts of his body and his face could be clearly seen.”" "A blurred out photo of him published by The New Paper showed him with a swollen face."
"A police manhunt was launched and Lee was arrested two days later in a Bangkok hotel, reported ST." "The Thai Police immediately launched a coordinated manhunt for Mr Lee, who was found in a hotel room in Bangkok on Sunday (Jan 12)."
"The police told me that the person who planned my kidnapping was the friend who came to Thailand with me. That really shocked me!" he told Lianhe Wanbao. “I didn’t expect my friend to be involved. I really don’t know who I can trust now,” Cheng was quoted in The New Paper. "It never struck him that Lee would be the mastermind behind his ordeal and he only learnt this from the Thai police later on. "I thought he was kidnapped too," Cheng said."
"Fortunately, police were able to arrest the kidnapper and most of the ransom money has been recovered." "Lee confessed to all the charges and Cheng had 1.2 million baht (S$53,526) returned to him." "Mr Lee has made a full confession to all the charges made against him and police have returned the 1.2 million Baht they were able to retrieve from him to Mr Cheng, according to Police Major Gen Chakrit."
"According to Police Major General Chakrit Sawasdee, Chachoengsao’s police chief, Mr Lee has since been charged with a number of offences, including robbery, detention of others, physical assault and illegal possession of firearms which could lead to a life sentence." "[K]idnapping is a very serious offence. In fact, in Singapore, the offence carries a death penalty or life imprisonment with caning."
"Thai news outlet Thairath said the vehicle used in the kidnapping was registered to Chano, a 24-year-old actor who appeared in several soap operas some years ago." "An unnamed Thai actor will be summonsed for questioning over the kidnap for ransom of a 33-year-old Singaporean businessman who escaped his captors last Friday (Jan 10), Thai police said on Monday." "Pol Maj Gen Chakrit Sawatdi, commander of Chachoengsao provincial police, was checking the electronic financial transaction claimed by the victim, he said."
"Pol Lt Gen Montri Yimyaem, commissioner of Provincial Police Region 2, said the actor was linked to the abduction after the victim, Mr Mark Cheng, claimed he owned a pickup truck used in the kidnapping." "Thai authorities also searched the house belonging to a person of interest and found equipment and materials linked to the kidnapping. He said police were also investigating if the abduction was related to a business conflict."
“I don’t know what you feel after reading this entire account; but seriously, is it just me, or does this sound too much like a move plot with lots of plot holes? I mean, someone just paid his own ransom in bitcoin to someone whom he knew. And the victim was beaten up personally by his kidnapper.”
"It turns out that the man was out on bail when he was on his “one-day trip”." "At this point, Mr Cheng has elected to remain in Thailand, where he is expected to testify at the trial of Mr Lee."
"The man put on a surgical mask and went to court today for his alleged misappropriation of $320,000."
Mark Cheng was a cryptocurrency consultant who lived in Singapore. He met with a friend at a hotel in Thailand for a business deal. When taking a cab, they stopped and he was forced to get into another vehicle. He was then allegedly drugged, beaten, and tortured for 12 hours, with a large ransom demanded. At the end of the ordeal, he gave up $54k worth of bitcoin, which was ultimately recovered and his friend, who had planned the ordeal, was arrested on serious charges.
HOW COULD THIS HAVE BEEN PREVENTED?
While it is not possible to reasonable prevent all possibility of physical violence, security of crypto-assets can be better maintained through the establishment of a multi-signature setup. Under such a setup, multiple individuals are required to sign off on a transaction. The security is further improved through keeping the identities of some signers secret, using a variety of storage means, and securing some keys inside of physically protected areas such as banks.
Another strategy which can be used by an individual is the creation of a throw-away wallet which has less funds. This wallet can be given up to the attacker in place of all assets. This works as long as the adversary is unaware of the full asset balance.
Singapore Crypto Consultant Kidnapped for $1 Million Ransom (Feb 6)
S’porean Who Was Kidnapped in Thailand Was Apparently Out on Bail for Criminal Breach of Trust in S’pore - Goody Feed (Feb 13)
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S'porean allegedly kidnapped, tortured & nearly buried alive in Thailand over bitcoins - Mothership.SG - News from Singapore, Asia and around the world (Feb 14)
Man who kidnapped fellow Singaporean in Thailand arrested, almost 1.4 million Baht ransom money paid in bitcoins recovered - The Independent Singapore News (Feb 14)
Thai actor to be questioned over kidnap of Singaporean businessman - TODAY (Feb 14)
Singaporean abducted by Singaporean in Thailand barters bitcoin for freedom: reports | Coconuts (Feb 14)
Singaporean out on bail allegedly kidnapped and tortured in Thailand | The New Paper (Feb 14)
Thai Actor and Victim's Bitcoin Buddy Implicated in Kidnapping and Ransom of Singaporean National in Thailand – Blockchain News, Opinion, TV and Jobs (Feb 14)
Electrocuted and beaten: S'porean kidnapped in Thailand recounts his painful ordeal, Singapore News - AsiaOne (Feb 14)
S’porean Reportedly Planned Friend's Kidnap & Torture Over Bitcoin Ransom, Now Faces Life Imprisonment (Feb 14)
Singaporean out on bail allegedly kidnapped and tortured in Thailand | The New Paper (Feb 14)
E3B1C256-BFCB-4CEF-88A6-1DCCD7666635 (Feb 14)
Crypto consultant Mark Cheng claims he was kidnapped in Thailand (Feb 14)
Man allegedly kidnapped in Thailand while out on bail claims trial to criminal breach of trust | The Straits Times (Feb 14)
Singaporean kidnapped and beaten in Thailand returns to face misappropriation charges in S'pore court | The Straits Times (Feb 14)