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An American man is fighting extradition to Thailand on kidnapping and extortion charges brought by another American said to have strong ties to senior Thai officials.
Shawn Abraham Shaw, 43, has denied the charges, saying the alleged victim laid a complaint with Thai authorities after the pair had a falling-out in Phuket over a business deal.
The alleged victim, a millionaire businessman from Las Vegas identified in court papers only by the initials AMA, is said to have high-level connections in Thailand.
Shaw has been in custody in Palm Beach, Florida since his arrest in on Noveember 26. He has applied for bail but legal sources say he is unlikely to be granted it, given the seriousness of the charges.
The extradition hearing in the case is scheduled to open on March 3.
Shaw’s girlfriend Dawn Pasqualucci, 45, added a new twist to the tangled tale at his bond hearing last week. She told the court that the complainant brought the charges against Shaw because he feared the latter would expose him as a paedophile after seeing images of “little boys” on his computer.
“To say that this is a strange case is an understatement,” US Magistrate Judge William Matthewman said, according to an account of the proceedings published in the Palm Beach Sun Sentinel.
“I think all of this would certainly make for an interesting trial – in Thailand,” the judge added.
The saga began in Las Vegas, where Shaw and his accuser became acquainted while working out at the same fitness centre. Mr Shaw subsequently came up with an idea to recover millions in uncashed gambling chips, and travelled to Thailand to see if AMA would be interested.
Mr Shaw and his girlfriend stayed in AMA’s Phuket mansion and left on good terms in mid-December 2013, an earlier court hearing was told. It was only after negotiations for the business venture fell through that AMA concocted the kidnapping tale and got Thai officials to file charges, Shaw’s lawyers maintain.
Pasqualucci testified last week that after the couple returned from their trip to Phuket, private investigators followed her around New York. She said the couple moved to Palm Beach after a New York police lieutenant and one of the private investigators led her to believe the private eyes worked for the alleged victim.
Investigators in Thailand say the victim filed a complaint stating that he and Shaw had gone to a bar together in Phuket. He began to feel “very strange” after drinking a couple of Diet Cokes.
A bartender told authorities there that he knew the victim, noticed he was acting oddly and that Shaw either helped or carried him from the establishment.
The victim, who did not report the incident until several weeks after Shaw returned to the US, told police that Shaw put him in a car and drove him past his Phuket mansion to a building where he was held overnight and negotiated a US$3-million (B90 million) ransom, later reduced to $2 million (B60 million), to be paid when Shaw returned to the US.
Shaw’s defence lawyer, Jason Kreiss, raised many questions about the allegations and questioned why the victim delayed reporting the crime.
But Assistant US Attorney Stephanie Evans, handling the extradition case for the State Department, told the judge the victim was terrified. She said he feared for his family after Shaw later showed up at his mother’s home in Italy.
Evans told the judge that the case against Shaw – and his allegations about the victim – must be proved or disproved at a criminal trial in Thailand.