An Australian former kickboxing champion who fled to Cambodia to escape justice for the murder of a former Hells Angels member has been sentenced to death for the crime by a Thai court.
Antonio Bagnato, 28, traveled to Phnom Penh shortly after the body of Wayne Schneider, a former business partner, was found buried in a forest near the tourist town of Pattaya in December 2015. He was captured by military police near Kandal Market the next day and sent back to Thailand. A second man, U.S. national Tyler Gerard, was arrested at an immigration checkpoint as he tried to cross into Cambodia.
Mr. Bagnato denied any involvement in the kidnap and killing of Mr. Schneider. The two had previously run a gym together in Sydney.
On Tuesday, the Pattaya Provincial Court found Mr. Bagnato guilty of murder and abduction, and sentenced him to death—though legal experts in Australia have said it is unlikely he will face the death penalty as Thailand has not carried out any executions since 2009.
Mr. Gerard, 22, was given three years in prison for deprivation of liberty after evidence was found linking him to the scene of the kidnapping, though his sentence was reduced to two years for his cooperation with authorities. Three other suspects remain on the run.
Thai police believe the killing was motivated by conflicts over a multimillion-dollar international drug network.
Cambodian authorities are currently helping Thai police locate two suspects wanted for their alleged involvement in another murder case in Pattaya. South African Abel Caldeira Bonito, 23, and Briton Miles Dicken Turner, 27, are said to have crossed into Cambodia on January 24 through the Cham Yeam International Checkpoint in Koh Kong province, the same day victim Tony Kenway was shot in the head while sitting in his car. Mr. Bonito has ties to Phnom Penh.
Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief Chuon Narin said on Wednesday: “The internal security police and immigration police are working on it. Police have not found them yet.”
phearun@cambodiadaily.com
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