Australian Antonio Bagnato, 28, and US national Tyler Gerard, 22, were arrested after police found the battered body of Wayne Schneider in a shallow grave.
Bagnato was sentenced to death by a court in the resort city of Pattaya for detaining, assaulting and then killing the victim, Gerard’s lawyer told Reuters.
Gerard was jailed for two years as an accomplice to the crime, said the lawyer, Phipat Chantakul.
Bagnato’s lawyer declined to comment.
The court found that the killing was premeditated, as the defendants had rented a house and a vehicle used in committing the crime, Mr Phipat said.
Gerard’s sentence was reduced from an original three years because he had cooperated with the investigation, his lawyer said.
AP quoted Thai police as saying Bagnato murdered Mr Schneider because of a dispute over their drug trafficking which was said to stretch from Europe to Asia and net millions of dollars.
The crime took place at 5am on Nov 30, 2015. Police were informed a group of foreign men beat Mr Schneider, an Australian fitness businessman, in front of his house in Jomtien Park Villa housing estate in South Pattaya. They later took him in a Toyota Hilux Vigo pickup truck.
Police found at the scene electrical tapes, pieces of bullet magazines and foldable batons, three 9mm bullets, one blue-black cap, a Casio wristwatch, sticky tapes and a sponge.
From the camera footage of its licence plate, investigators found the pickup truck was rented from a Pattaya Klang shop by a Thai woman. She testified her Australian husband had instructed her to do so and bring the truck to the suspects.
Late on Dec 1, police found an unusual spot in the GPS records of the truck – the woods 100 metres from the Viharn Sian-Khao Chee Chan in Sattahip.
They found Wayne’s naked body buried one metre deep there with a broken neck, cuts on the left eyebrow and several bruises. They believed he might have been dead for several hours.
On the next day, police found the truck parked near Khao Phratamnak in South Pattaya and came to collect fingerprints on it.
They then went to a two-storey house where a witness claimed Wayne had been beaten and found bloodstains and other evidence.
Later, soldiers and immigration police detained Gerard while leaving the country.
After intense questioning, Gerard confessed he and four other men abducted and killed Wayne. Cambodian police also arrested Bagnato in the neighbouring country shortly after. He denied killing Wayne but admitted he knew the other suspects. He also claimed he came to Thailand just to watch boxing matches in Pattaya.
The investigation focused on business conflicts.
Bagnato was originally a bodyguard of the victim, who was in the Hells Angels group. He later split up to set up his own gang called St. Michael and conducted a competing business.
After several business conflicts, Bagnato and the other four men beat and abducted Wayne and brought him to Bagnato’s house. There, they beat him to death before burying the body.
The other three suspects still at large are an American and two Australians.
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