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Sydney Man Kidnaps Child Over Gambling Debt
Sydney man kidnapped child in attempt to recover gambling debt sentenced to jail
A Gold Coast child was kidnapped to recover a Sydney man’s $5.5 million gambling debt, the Southport District Court has heard.
The ABC reports that Zhen Jie Zhang, 55, has been sentenced to seven years’ jail after admitting he acted irrationally and said he wanted to formally apologise to his young victim, whose head he tied to a chair in 2018.
“I want to say I’m deeply sorry,” Zhang said through an interpreter.
“If you feel afraid please forgive me for that” your father was acting terribly and owed me a substantial amount of money.
“I felt I had no other option.”
The boy, who was 12 years old at the time, was snatched from outside his house in May 2018 as he walked home from Somerset College at Mudgeeraba.
He was bundled into a car and driven across the Queensland and New South Wales border, with an amber alert issued and the boy, found 240 kilometres away in Grafton.
At the time, detectives said the boy was treated for scratches “consistent with being bound”.
Prosecutor Matt Hynes told the court the boy had a mask placed over his head and had been given water only twice during his 16 hours of captivity.
The boy also made three attempts to escape.
“On the first attempt, his ankles were tied; the second, a towel was placed in his mouth; the third, his head was tied to a chair with the rope around his neck,” Mr Hynes said.
The court heard Zhang and the boy’s father met in 2010 and gambled together.
The boy’s father had borrowed money from Zhang and also owed a substantial amount to casinos.
Mr Hynes said Zhang had set about extorting the boy’s family over a period of three and a half months, including sending threatening texts with the words: “Watch out…wait for pick up the body.”
In a victim impact statement, the young boy’s mother said her son went from being a happy-go-lucky boy to a child who was “sad, frightened and miserable.”
“She observes that when dark cars go near the house, he hides under tables,” Mr Hynes said.
Defence barrister Alastair McDougall said his client had no prior criminal history and his offending was born from desperation.
He said his client was trying to recover the money owed to pay for his mother’s medical expenses and to put his own son through flight school.
“He became frustrated with the non-repayments of monies,” Mr McDougall said.
In sentencing, Judge Katherine McGinness noted Zhang had already spent more than two and a half years in custody and his lack of English would leave him feeling isolated in jail.
Zhang will be eligible for parole in February.
Domestic high rollers the new focus for Gold Coast casino
Gold Coast casino bosses say they are focusing on luring domestic high rollers with Chinese ‘whales’ – the term used for rich gamblers – not expected back in Australia for another year.
The ABC said The Star Gold Coast was busy when it reopened its doors last Friday with another influx expected this Friday when the Queensland border reopens to interstate visitors – with the exception of Victorians, who are dealing with an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases.
The Star’s group executive of operations, Geoff Hogg, said hundreds of hotel rooms were booked, restaurants were full, and he was expecting more visitors from Friday.
“It’s a good milestone with the border opening and hopefully getting more demand into the city,” Mr Hogg said.
“We had a couple of restaurants open and The Darling Hotel [during lockdowns], but now to be operating a lot closer to full capacity is fantastic.”
The senior executive of more than 20 years in the casino game said the continued closure of international borders would impact on the group’s bottom line.
“Our international guests make anywhere up to 10 to 12 per cent of our business,” he said.
“It’s millions of dollars in our earnings and that’s quite significant.
“We all understand that part of our market is not going to be there for a lengthy period of time.
“We know that international tourism is certainly not something that we can rely on for at least a year.”