Arrests made in billionaire murder case

Arrests made in billionaire murder case
PHOTO: The Straits Times

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Police yesterday arrested two suspects surnamed Lin and Cheng in Pingtung and Yulin who allegedly kidnapped and killed billionaire Shih Chia-chin.

Police said that Lin confessed to participating in the kidnapping but claims not to know anything about the killing of the victim, according to the Central News Agency (CNA).

Taichung prosecutors yesterday said that another suspect, surnamed Hsieh, who recently fled to Thailand, allegedly worked with two or three others, including Lin, to abduct, kill and abandon the body of his employer.

Shih arrived at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport from the US on the morning of Aug. 18 and requested that Hsieh - his driver - pick him up at the airport. Hsieh later demanded a ransom of NT$50 million (S$2 million) from Shih's family, and asked the family to wire an initial instalment of NT$30 million into three of the victim's bank accounts, police said.

After receiving the kidnappers' call for ransom, the family wired the money into the designated accounts and then reported the kidnapping to police. Hsieh, on the afternoon of the same day, went to a bank in Tainan and demanded the money transfer service.

An employee of the bank requested that Hsieh present his identification in accordance with regulations, but Hsieh refused and left the scene immediately without transferring the ransom money into his own account. Shih's family did not hear from the kidnappers after that, police said.

Police and prosecutors on Aug. 19 discovered the vehicle that Hsieh had used to pick up Shih at an interchange section in Tainan. Investigators the next day further discovered that Hsieh had already fled to Thailand using a forged passport.

Prosecutors and police on the night of Aug. 24 discovered the body of a man in a mountainous area in Tainan County; the body had over 20 puncture wounds to the back and had already started to decay. Shih's family went to identify the body and confirmed that it was the victim, according to CNA.

Prosecutors on a Possible Motive

Prosecutors were quoted by CNA as saying they suspect that Hsieh, who served as the victim's driver for years, allegedly committed the crime for money. The suspects had long before decided that they were going to kill the victim, prosecutors said.

Stating that the incident was a deliberate, premeditated crime, prosecutors said that within 24 hours the suspects kidnapped and injured the victim, drove to Central Taiwan to change vehicles and made the call to Shih's family. The suspects then drove to Tainan to wire the ransom money and abandoned Shih's body before fleeing the country, prosecutors said.

Although Hsieh fled to Thailand using a forged passport, it was discovered that he used his real passport to book another flight to Hong Kong, prosecutors said, noting that this suggests Hsieh intended to leave a false trail to mislead investigators.

Doubts Surround the Case

Given that Hsieh left the country without collecting the ransom money, and that the victim's valuable watch was still on his body, many have cast doubt on the idea that the suspects' motive only concerned the billionaire's fortune. Commentators further questioned how Hsieh will be able live in a foreign country without the ransom money.

As the victim operated an online gambling site many years ago, a prosecutor who refused to be named was quoted by the United Evening News as saying that they suspect the incident may not have been intended to be simply an abduction, but was intended to result in murder.

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