Taiwan gambling millionaire murdered after being kidnapped, held for ransom

TAIPEI (AFP) - A Taiwan businessman who reportedly accumulated a fortune worth tens of millions of US dollars through illegal gambling has been murdered by kidnappers, including his chauffeur, in a case that has rocked the island, the police said on Monday.

Mr Shih Chia-chin was picked up by chauffeur Hsieh Yuan-hsin upon his return to the northern airport of Taoyuan on Aug 18. Three hours later, the accountant of Mr Shih's company received a phone call from kidnappers demanding a ransom of TW$50 million (S$2 million).

After negotiating with the kidnappers, Mr Shih's family wired TW$30 million to three designated bank accounts and alerted the police, according to a statement from the police in the central city of Taichung. It said Hsieh tried to withdraw the ransom but gave up and fled after he was asked by a bank clerk to show his ID.

Mr Shih's body was found on Sunday evening in a ditch in a remote area of the southern city of Tainan.

Prosecutors issued a warrant barring Hsieh from leaving the country. But about four hours later the suspect managed to board a flight for Thailand with a fake passport, the police said.

The police said at least two other people were involved in the kidnapping.

Citing police sources, the United Daily News said it was suspected there could have been a mastermind behind Hsieh, who has no criminal record.

It said ransom might not have been the main purpose of the abduction.

Local media said Mr Shih had kept a low profile since he survived a kidnapping attempt four years ago.

Mr Shih was sentenced to an 18-month suspended prison term after his Internet gambling ring was cracked nine years ago, the News said, adding that he had built up a fortune worth billions of Taiwan dollars.

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