Thai police said they arrested 52-year-old Mario S. near the city of Chiang Mai on Friday on suspicion of kidnapping a 46-year-old woman and demanding millions in ransom money.
He had boarded a plane to Thailand on the same day that he committed the crime – but that wasn't enough to save him from the long arm of the Munich police.
“He wasn't bad – but we were better,” Markus Kraus, leader of the Munich police homicide unit, said on Monday.
Thai media reported that Mario – originally from North Rhine-Westphalia – will be transferred to Munich later in the week. Thai police were able to arrest him after the German embassy in Bangkok cancelled his passport.
Prosecutors in the Bavarian capital have launched an investigation for unlawful detention, kidnapping for the purpose of blackmail and attempted serious blackmail, charges which could see the accused jailed for between five and 15 years.
A missing million
On the morning of June 10th, the kidnapper attacked his victim, the wife of a Sparkasse bank manager, with an imitation firearm and drove her away in her car, leaving her son tied up at the house.
German-language Thai news site Der Farang reported that Mario believed he was being scammed by the Sparkasse, where he had his accounts, and had recently failed to obtain a payment of €1.5 million he said was due.
The kidnapping was to have been revenge for this failure to award him what he believed was rightfully his.
But the woman was able to get free and escape when the criminal stopped the car at a car park in Munich.
'Beard better than balaclava'
Cameras at the car park and in the S-Bahn train he used to travel to the scene of the kidnapping caught the man on film.
While the images show a man with a beard, suspect Mario S. has since shaved his off, Kraus said, making recognizing him difficult for witnesses and complicating the police search.
“We believe that he deliberately grew out his beard [before committing the crime]” the detective chief said.
“A beard is better than a balaclava [for hiding one's identity].”
Kraus said that information stored under controversial “Vorratsdatenspeicherung” (data retention) rules had helped to catch Mario S., without giving any further details.
Mario has lived in northern Thailand near the city of Chiang Mai with his wife for several years.
Investigators suspect that he travelled to Munich and rented a flat for the sole purpose of keeping the bank manager's wife while he conducted his blackmail.
Munich police got onto his trail after finding a contract for a prepaid phone in Mario's name in the rubbish outside the building.