JOHOR BAHRU - The vegetable trader who was kidnapped in southern Johor state on Jan 27 and released after five days of captivity is a Malaysian citizen, said Johor Police chief Mohd Khalil Mohd Kader.
He told reporters at a press conference at the Royal Malaysian Police Johor headquarters on Thursday (Feb 7) that the 57-year-old man was "roughed up" by the kidnappers but was uninjured.
Mr Khalil said in Malay: "Even though there were news reports stating the victim is a Singaporean, I want to confirm that he is not a Singapore citizen but a Malaysian."
He also revealed that 16 suspects have been arrested with some part of the nearly RM1 million ransom recovered.
Initial Malaysian media reports had identified the kidnap victim as a Singaporean citizen, though he was not named.
The incident occurred at about 7am near Gelang Patah, just 20 minutes north of Tuas Second Link.
The businessman, who exports vegetables to Singapore, was ambushed by two masked male suspects as he was jogging with a friend.
One suspect is believed to have fired a handgun to scare the victim, who was immediately dragged into an awaiting car with a fake licence plate.
A 9mm casing was found at the incident site.
After the police were alerted by the kidnap victim's friend, they covertly began identifying the suspects.
The kidnappers had demanded a ransom of RM300,000 (S$100,000) and S$500,000 from the victim's family.
The victim was released after his family had paid RM300,000 and S$265,000.
Mr Khalil said: "We waited until the victim was freed before we made the arrests."
The freed victim was immediately examined at Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru after being held in a house in an undisclosed area.
The police, with help from the special investigation units from Johor and Bukit Aman, sprang into action on Jan 31 in multiple areas in Johor Baru and Kuala Lumpur.
Of the 16 arrested, 13 are males and three females between the ages of 21 and 59.
The suspects - all Malaysian citizens - will be held in police custody till Feb 11.
So far, Johor police have recovered part of the ransom money paid to the kidnappers.
They amounted to RM92,567 and S$5,190.
Mr Khalil said: "Rest assured, we will fulfil our investigation and will determine all involved (in the kidnapping) are caught because this group has been active since 2010... we will trace them and maybe we could surface some other cases where the group was involved in."
The Johor police are still looking for a few other suspects.
Mr Khalil shared that some of the suspects are from two Chinese secret societies which have been on the police radar since 2010.
Two vehicles used in the alleged kidnap have been seized.
Investigations are ongoing.