Line phone app saves pair from Russian gangsters

One short message on the popular Line smart phone application is credited with saving the lives of two Russian bar owners on Koh Samui after they were kidnapped by Russian gangsters.

Albert Slotr said he and his friend cried tears of joy when they saw police on Monday night.

"I was allowed to use my cellphone to contact my relatives to arrange the payment of a ransom. So, I secretly sent a Line message too, to tell my relatives where exactly I was being held," Slotr told police.

The pair said they were assaulted and kidnapped earlier on Monday after they refused to pay the gangsters Bt1 million (S$41, 940).

They were being held in the Grand Hill hotel.

Slotr and his partner had already given the gangsters Bt1.67 million during the past few months but the gang pressed for more.

Three suspects were involved in the kidnapping, police said.

One of them, Alexander Mashev, is on the run. Two others, Dannin Maslovski, 33, and Firdotov Sergey, 34, are in custody and are charged with extortion, physical assault and illegal detention.

According to the victims, Sergey entered their beer bar on Chaweng Beach one day and demanded 50 per cent of their business.

As Sergey was running the mafia-style gang, the bar owners agreed to pay the "protection money".

However, after the gang pressed for too much, the bar owners decided to resist.

Police vowed to track down all the gangsters, who have also preyed on other Russian businesses on Samui.

Surat Thani deputy police chief Colonel Pornsak Nuannoo said yesterday that after being contacted by the victim's relatives, Koh Samui Police superintendent Colonel Jamnot Kaewkhao led a team, including Tourism Police and plainclothes officers, to the Grand Hill hotel himself.

With a search warrant in hand, police surrounded the hotel before finding Masloveski, 33, sprinting toward a Vios and arrested him there. In the vehicle was Bt70,000 in cash.

Sergey, 34, was arrested in the room where he had detained Slotr and his friend. There were signs that both victims had suffered physical abuse.

There were also guns and screwdrivers in the room.

Both Sergey and Masloveski have refused to provide any information during the interrogation.

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