Two people have been charged after allegedly demanding $200,000 for the release of a man kept under armed guard in Melbourne’s CBD.
Police were tipped off to the terrifying alleged extortion attempt after a 21-year-old woman received a message via social media app WeChat.
The woman, who is also a Chinese national, told police a male friend was being held hostage in a CBD apartment by armed men.
The group allegedly demanded a $200,000 ransom for the 19-year-old’s safe return, sparking a response by the armed crime squad.
Police swooped in on the apartment in central Melbourne shortly after 1am on August 17 and found the man without incident.
In the days after, detectives executed search warrants at properties in the Melbourne CBD and Docklands and arrested three men.
Two of the men, both Chinese nationals, were charged with a string of offences, including false imprisonment, unlawful assault, and blackmail.
They appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court on August 18, with a third man, aged 21, released pending further inquiries by police.
On Monday, police arrested a further three Chinese nationals – aged 23 and 25 – before releasing them pending further investigations.
The alleged hostage situation comes as police warn of an uptick in scams targeting Mandarin-speaking Chinese students.
Victoria police say the scams often involve fake information being provided to victims in order to extort money from them.
Victims are often threatened by people falsely claiming to be Chinese government officials or police.
They are then asked for large sums of money to be transferred in order to prevent the victim being charged or deported.
The two men charged so far by Victoria Police will reappear before the Melbourne court in November.