AGENTS of the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) on Monday rescued unharmed a South Korean national who claimed to have been kidnapped by his compatriot and forced to produce a US$5 million ransom for his safe release last March 4, PNP-AKG director, Brigadier General Glenn G. Dumlao announced yesterday.
The official said that Han Jongwook, a 26-year old resident of 16-G Greenbelt Chancellor Condominium located at 112 Rada Street, Legaspi Village in Makati City was reported to have been abducted last March 4. However, PNP-AKG investigators are looking into the possibility it could be a ‘kidnap-me’ case since they discovered that the victim and the supposed kidnappers are partners who were frequently seen with each other during the supposed days in captivity of the victim.
The incident prompted the victim’s father Sangpil to go to Manila after reportedly seeking the help of the South Korean president. With the help of officials from the South Korean Embassy and South Korean police, the victim’s father even sought an audience with PNP chief, Director General Oscar D. Albayalde who in turn ordered the PNP-AKG to leave no stones unturned in its investigation into the alleged kidnapping case.
The PNP-AKG said that Korean Embassy Consul Lee Jinsoo told investigators that the victim’s father received a voice message from his son informing him that he has been kidnapped and being beaten by his kidnappers who have demanded a $5 million or roughly P255 million ransom for his safe release prompting the distraught father to go to the country.
According to Dumlao, they discovered that the victim’s father last April 8 sent an initial ransom money amounting to $17,000 thru Bitcon although the kidnappers failed to release his son.
Dumlao said that in coordination with the South Korean Police and other embassy officials, they conducted an in-depth investigation into the case which enabled them to discover the ransom trail.
“In coordination with our Korean counterparts, we were able to identify the mediums and personalities employed and utilized by the supposed kidnappers particularly in laundering the ransom payment. This led us to the real identity of the kidnapper,” the official said.
Dumlao said that around 11:30 p.m. Monday, the victim was rescued at the Chancellor Condominium where he was said to have been held under captivity.
The rescue operation also led in the arrest of the principal suspect identified as Sangmin Lee,34, a Korean businessman residing at no. 21-D Frabella 1, Rada Street in Legaspi Village.
Dumlao said that Sangmin Lee was positively identified by the victim as the one who kidnapped him. However, PNP-AKG investigators said they found some witnesses who testified that the victim and the suspect were known to each other triggering suspicions it could be a ‘kidnap-me’ case.
A travel agency driver made a formal statement that the two Koreans were the same Asians whom he picked up at the Paseo de Roces Condominium in the morning of April 22 and who asked him to bring them to Tiendesitas in Pasig City.
The driver said that the two later asked him to bring them to Eastwood Mall in Libis, Quezon City before going to Timog Avenue, Q.C. The witness said that after Jongwook’s companion alighted from his vehicle, the latter asked his help claiming he has been kidnapped and even showed injuries on his hands and feet which he claimed were due to handcuffs put on him.
However, officials said that if he was really were kidnapped, the victim could have easily sought the help of policemen along the way shortly after his companion who was later identified as Lee Sang Min left him and the Filipino driver.
It turned out that the victim even asked the driver to bring him to Castro Street in Makati City before going to the Greenbelt Chancellor building where he talked with a security guard before throwing some of his things in the garbage bin. The driver said that after that, the Korean showed him a picture of another Korean whom he positively identified as that of Lee Sang Min, the same Korean they left in Timog Avenue.
The PNP-AKG said that the suspect and the victim are involved in the garments business. The investigation into the incident sent PNP-AKG agents following-up leads as far as Visayas and Subic last Holy Week until they discovered that the victim was being kept in the Makati condominium.
Korean Embassy and police officials refused to give statement to the media regarding the incident. One PNP-AKG official was even treated with disrespect by one of the Koreans when he asked them if they are willing to give a media statement. The foreigner eventually apologized to the PNP-AKG official, the Journal Group learned.
A case for kidnapping-for-ransom with serious illegal detention is being readied against the suspect, the PNP-AKG director said.