A SUSPECT accused of kidnapping a 12-year-old boy on the Gold Coast is on the run, with police launching a manhunt amid fears the abduction may be part of an international extortion racket.
One man is in custody and will face court on Monday, charged with “kidnapping for ransom.” But cops are still desperately trying to find another man believed to have been involved, the Courier Mail reports.
The boy, who is now back with his mother, was dragged into a dark SUV on his way home from school on Friday, and found in Grafton in northern New South Wales the next day. He had scratches consistent with being tied up, police said.
Witnesses said they saw two men in the car.
The schoolboy’s abductors were reportedly demanding money from his family, in a dispute involving “substantial” loans, according to Queensland Police. His father, who has denied reports he owes $4 million in gambling debts, is thought to be in China.
Neighbours reported seeing men knocking at the door of the family home in Mudgeeraba at odd times over the previous week. The boy’s Chinese father was not believed to live at the property any more, the Courier Mail reported.
But it appears the story goes much deeper than it initially appeared, and may be tied to the lucrative gambling industry catering to wealthy Chinese high-rollers.
The boy did not suffer any serious injuries but was taken to Grafton Base Hospital for a check-up before being reunited with his family, who made the 200-kilometre journey south on Saturday evening accompanied by Queensland detectives.
Queensland Police will formally apply for the extradition of Zhen Jie Zhang, 53, in front of a magistrate until Monday.
The accused is understood to be an Australian citizen of Chinese heritage.
“It’s the case that both parties were known to each other and there were financial issues involved in the lead-up to the abduction of the child,” Detective Inspector Marc Hogan said on Saturday.
Police will allege that in the months before the kidnapping “requests were made for money”.
It’s thought the dispute involved “substantial” personal loans, Det Insp Hogan said.
“That led us pretty quickly to identifying who we should be looking at.”