Police escort Zhen Jie Zhang to the Gold Coast police lock up after he was extradited from Grafton. Picture: AAP image, John Gass
Police escort Zhen Jie Zhang to the Gold Coast police lock up after he was extradited from Grafton. Picture: AAP image, John Gass

Accused kidnapper ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’

A FORMER Chinese soldier charged over the shocking abduction of a Gold Coast schoolboy "wouldn't hurt a fly" his distraught family claims.

Sydney man Zhen Jie Zhang, 53, yesterday faced an extradition hearing in the northern NSW town of Grafton after his weekend arrest over the kidnapping of a 12-year-old boy in an alleged plot to recover millions of dollars in gambling debts.

Police continue to scour traffic cameras and CCTV in a bid to find a second man believed to be still on the run.

So far, Zhang has given no indication to detectives of an accomplice, but witnesses told police a second man was seen when the young boy was dragged screaming into a black Jeep on Friday afternoon.

Zhen Jie Zhang after he was extradited to Queensland from Grafton in northern NSW. Picture: AAP image, John Gass
Zhen Jie Zhang after he was extradited to Queensland from Grafton in northern NSW. Picture: AAP image, John Gass

The young boy, who was treated for minor scratches after his 20-hour ordeal, is recovering at the family's Gold Coast mansion.

He has spoken with police but is yet to provide a formal statement.

A relative of Zhang in Sydney yesterday said the family was shocked by the arrest.

"I only found out yesterday - he's a good bloke and wouldn't hurt a fly," said the relative.

"All I know is he was a gambler and supposed to be a high roller.

"He used to own a house worth $2.4 million on the Gold Coast, nice Mercedes, jet skis and a boat.

The boy's father, who lives primarily in China but travels to the Gold Coast several times a year, has denied having gambling debts.

Zhang faced court in Grafton yesterday before being driven three hours back to the Gold Coast where he will today face charges of kidnapping.

Dressed in a green prison track suit and handcuffed, Zhang yesterday told the Grafton Magistrates Court: "I had no intention of doing what I did."

Following a 10-minute extradition hearing, the 53-year-old was taken to the Gold Coast in the company of Queensland detectives and charged with kidnapping for ransom.

Via a Cantonese translator, Zhang tried to plead his case from the dock.

But Magistrate Karen Stafford was quick to shut him down.

"May I explain my case to you right now?" he asked.

"No," Mrs Stafford said.

"Wait until you get some legal advice and that's a matter for the magistrate in Queensland."

Zhang covered his face and hung his head as he was ushered from the Grafton watch-house in the back of an unmarked police car.

The 12-year-old boy is also back home on the Gold Coast, where his family split time between a Mudgeeraba townhouse near one of the city's most prestigious schools and a palatial mansion in a gated community dominated by Chinese families.



Gig Guide: From The Whiskeys to Emma Louise

premium_icon Gig Guide: From The Whiskeys to Emma Louise

All the entertainment you need to know about this week

What becomes of racehorses who've run their last race?

premium_icon What becomes of racehorses who've run their last race?

Local equestrian advocates for retiring racehorses

Teens still on the run after stealing car at Ballina

premium_icon Teens still on the run after stealing car at Ballina

Police engaged in a pursuit but it had to be terminated