‘Millions owed’ to kidnap accused
A FORMER Chinese soldier accused of kidnapping a Gold Coast schoolkid in a chilling extortion plot claims the boy's father owed him almost $10 million.
As the young boy prepares to face his accused kidnappers in a tense courtroom showdown in April, court documents reveal the child's father and the man accused of orchestrating the audacious abduction were long-time gambling buddies who travelled throughout Asia together to visit some of the world's biggest casinos.
Gambling is illegal on mainland China, but that is little barrier to the super rich of the Asian nation, who regularly travel to destinations such as Hong Kong, Macau and Australia on gambling holidays.
The boy, who cannot be named, was just 12 when he was dragged screaming into the back of a dark Jeep in broad daylight near his Gold Coast school and held captive for two days in May 2018 before his dramatic rescue near Grafton in northern NSW.
His father later flew home from China to meet with detectives and denied owing Zhen Jie "Kenny" Zhang, 55, a cent, but it will be claimed he had repaid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Zhang in the months prior to the kidnapping before the payments suddenly stopped.
Contact between the two former friends became increasingly tense, with Zhang allegedly reminding the man about "all the gambling tips I've been giving you" before later allegedly saying he would "disturb" the man's family if the debt was not paid, according to documents.
On May 11, 2018, the boy was walking home from school when he was dragged into the back of a Jeep near his Mudgeeraba townhouse.
After a massive manhunt spanning two states, he was eventually located bound by the feet, wrists and neck in the back seat of a car parked on the side of the road near Grafton.
Zhang was arrested a short time later, while his Sydney-based son, Yu "Sunny" Zhang, now 22, was eventually connected to the alleged plot and was arrested in Sydney after turning himself in almost two weeks later. They both face a raft of charges including deprivation of liberty, torture and assault, while the older Zhang also faces counts of extortion.
Zhang and his son are yet to enter a plea, but the case is set down for trial in October, while their alleged victim will give evidence in a closed court on the Gold Coast in April.