TAIPEI // A kidnapped Hong Kong tycoon has been freed in a dramatic rescue after he was held captive for more than a month by criminals who demanded a US$9 million ransom, Taiwan authorities said Wednesday.
Wong Yuk-kwan, chairman of the Hong Kong-listed Pearl Oriental Oil exploration company, was found chained and beaten up Tuesday in a shack in a western Taiwan village after being abducted outside Taipei on September 20, according to authorities.
Television footage of the rescue operation showed the 67-year-old, also known as Wong Kwan, looking frail and frightened as he sat on the floor of a barren room with his feet cuffed.
His face was bruised and he was clutching his legs, which were covered in cuts.
Fifteen people were arrested over the abduction, including a man suspected of masterminding the kidnapping, according to the authorities.
The kidnappers requested a ransom of HK$70m (Dh33.1m) through emails to Mr Wong’s office in Hong Kong and demanded to be paid in virtual currency bitcoins, authorities said.
“We are assisting the Hong Kong police with the investigation on their end as well,” an official from New Taipei City police said, adding that no ransom was paid.
Mr Wong’s company was unavailable for comment.
The businessman, who was in Taipei for medical treatment according to Taiwan media reports, is still facing charges that were brought against him and Pearl Oriental Oil executives in 2013 by Hong Kong’s anti-corruption watchdog.
He is accused along with three others of fraud and money laundering relating to the acquisition of an oilfield in the United States.
He has been on a HK$5 million bail since.
Two of the defendants in the case were found guilty in May this year and sentenced to seven years and five years in jail respectively.
Pearl Oriental Oil’s main business is oil and gas exploration and the company is valued at HK$957 million. Its main asset is the oilfield in Utah and it also runs a plastic recycling business, according to its website.
Hong Kong has a long history of kidnaps targeting high-profile members of the business community.
In April, a Hong Kong textiles heiress was abducted and released three days later, after her family paid her captors a ransom of HK$28 million.
Nine people were arrested over the abduction after Hong Kong authorities launched a massive operation to hunt down the suspected kidnappers.
* Agence France-Presse