Businessman Yu Kuo-chu (于國柱) was kidnapped by notorious fugitive gangster Chang Hsi-ming (張錫銘), and later released after an estimated NT$500 million ransom was paid, police said yesterday.
"The fugitive Chang has committed another kidnapping," said Criminal Investigation Bureau Deputy Commissioner Kao Cheng-sheng. (高政昇). "Yu was detained for a total of 18 days."
"A large number of heavily-armed police are now looking for Chang and his associates in the mountainous areas of Chiayi and Tainan counties," Kao added.
He said Chang demanded NT$4 billion in ransom from Yu's family. Contrary to police accounts, the Yu family said they did not pay the ransom.
The figure of the ransom demand is also in question. Local Chinese-language newspapers reported Yu's family paid NT$500 million to Chang. They decided not to tell the police because Yu allegedly runs an illegal business.
Reports said the 44-year-old Yu who lives in Taichung, a well as other businesspeople made about NT$10 billion last year from an international online sports gambling and casino sites, which is illegal in Taiwan.
Reports also said several high-ranking gangsters helped communicate between Chang and Yu's family, and the NT$500 million ransom was finally paid to people based in China.
Police said Chang only chooses very rich people to kidnap and he probably found out about Yu's wealth from other gangsters.
Police said Yu arrived at Kaohsiung International Airport from the Philippines on March 23 and was given a ride home to Taichung by two friends. Chang and his gang followed the car from the airport and forced them to stop on the freeway after aiming pistols and rifles at the vehicle, police said.
Yu apparently fled on Thursday night from a mountainous area in Tainan. A passer-by who later ran into Yu to him to a local police station.
According to police, Yu was confined for 18 days by Chang alone. He was continuously moved to different locations in the mountains of Chiayi and Tainan . They slept in shelters, cars and by riverbanks. Chang carried the food they ate with him.
Chang was very alert and always had a gun in his hand, Yu said.
Yu told police Chang did not abuse him, but bound him with shackles around his hands and legs.
Yu said Chang abandoned him late Thursday after tieing him to a tree with wires. Yu managed to free himself and flee.
Police suspect that Chang intentionally tied Yu up loosely so he could escape after the kidnapper knew the ransom had been paid.
Police also said several people who have allegedly been kidnapped by Chang and his associates have kept quiet after they were released. The hostages probably fear retribution if they informed authorities of the matter, they said.
In a related development, police yesterday arrested three kidnap suspects, including, Lee Ing-chang (李英彰), Lin Shi-yuan (林士元) and Chen Chien-chih (陳健志) in two different areas in Tainan and Chiayi. The suspects allegedly assisted in Yu's kidnapping. Police added they are looking for a fourth suspect surnamed Wu.
Police said Lee is Chang's close associate, but Lin belonged to another crime syndicate. They now suspect that since Lin participated in the kidnapping, this means that two different crime gangs have started working together.
Police have in the past launched large-scale search operations to track down Chang, but have failed to catch him.
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