Thai police said on Thursday they were pursuing more suspects in the kidnapping of a Taiwanese businessman for whom an American entrepreneur with a criminal record and two other men had already been arrested.
The case concerns a trade dispute over the purchase of nitrile gloves, essential personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.
Louis William Ziskin, CEO of a Los Angeles-based tech company, and Jeremy Hughes Manchester, identified as a former US Navy, were arrested on Saturday along with a Thai man. The other five suspects are from the United States and Israel, said Police Col. Netiwit Thanasithnitikul of the Thailand Crime Suppression Division.
Ziskin and Manchester have denied the charges, including kidnapping, attempted murder, assault and membership in a criminal gang. Both are free on bail but must wear tracking devices at all times and not leave Thailand.
Ziskin responded to an Associated Press email query and, in a series of exchanges, said the Thai police accounts were misleading and that he had evidence that would exonerate him from his wrongdoing. .
Netiwit said the case resulted from a trade deal gone awry between Ziskin and the company the Taiwanese man worked for. Ziskin accused the company of cheating by selling them substandard nitrile gloves for nearly $ 3 million.
Netiwit said Ziskin allegedly hired a group of US and Israeli private investigators based in Thailand to help recover the money he paid the Taiwanese company for the gloves.
“This crime has two complicated aspects. One is an attempted kidnapping and the other is the medical supply deal that went awry during the COVID period, ”Netiwit said.
He said Thailand was a major supplier of gloves, and “we hear so many stories of fraudulent deals from people claiming to represent a legitimate glove company when they really have no connection.”
He said the Economic Crime Division of the police was investigating the glove case.
According to a police statement after the arrests on Saturday, the representative of the Taiwanese company, Wen Yu Chung, was drawn to a meeting in March on the pretext of discussing a possible purchase of rubber gloves.
The group allegedly hired by Ziskin, including Manchester, grabbed Wen in plain sight of customers, restaurant staff and a CCTV camera, dragging him outside after a brief struggle and leading him into a waiting vehicle, which took him to a rented room nearby, the statement said.
Wen was reportedly threatened with physical injury, and the men holding him are accused of using his phone to call his business to demand $ 2 million, and his family to demand $ 1 million, police said. The company refused and contacted authorities.
Wen was then taken to another restaurant where Ziskin insisted he wanted the Taiwanese company to return his payment for the gloves to him, police said.
That same night, they took Wen to a police station where they wanted him to sign a statement that he would not press charges against them, the statement said. He refused, after which he was released, and later returned to the police station to file a complaint, he said.
Ziskin was arrested in 2000 and convicted of being part of a drug ring that smuggled large amounts of ecstasy to Southern California from Europe, according to U.S. court documents. He was released from prison in 2011, then transformed into an entrepreneur whose core business, DropIn Inc., uses drones to help insurance companies assess risks and verify claims.
He is also an active motivational speaker, presenting himself in personal appearances, interviews and podcasts as an example of how a convicted felon can clean up his act and thrive in legitimate business.
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