Korat police fight 'influential' crime

NAKHON RATCHASIMA - Police on Wednesday pledged to enforce the law as they began investigation of a major underground lottery network said to be run by the older brother of an influential local politician.

  • Published: 3/07/2013 at 06:02 PM
  • Newspaper section: breakingnews

Police began on Monday by executing a search warrant at a cable TV shop, Chok Chai Cable TV CTH, in Chok Chai district. They arrested 10 people after receiving complaints from residents that the office was the centre of a large underground lottery system. 

Police found 62 sheets of paper in the raid, which appeared to be lists of bettors and the amounts involved. The lists added up to 203,742 baht. Police seized 48,000 baht in cash, nine calculators and pens.

The suspects included Roongruang Wongtrairat, the older brother of Bhumjaithai Party deputy leader and MP for Nakhon Ratchasima, Boonjong Wongtrairat. Police suspect Mr Roongruang was a bookie while nine other people on the premises were his employees in a gambling operation.

The shop belongs to Mr Roongruang. His younger brother, Mr Boonjong, was a deputy interior minister in the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration from 2008 to 2011.

Police detained Mr Roongruang and his alleged employees for questioning at Chok Chai police station. All were then charged with conspiracy in operating an underground lottery, and operating betting services without permission.

Police said all the suspects confessed to all charges. They were released on bail of 20,000 baht each on the same day.  

However, on Wednesday, just hours before they were to appear in court, all 10 of the charged men denied they had confessed, said Pol Col Banpot Moongchobklang, chief of Chok Chai police station. 

The suspects’ unexpected U-turn forced investigators to ask for another 24 days to gather more evidence, conclude an investigation report and submit it to public prosecutors, Pol Col Banpot said.

A source close to the investigation team, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the underground lottery ring with the alleged links to Mr Roongruang and his associates is a major gambling operation, involving more than 300 so-called "agents" who run bets in three local districts of Chok Chai, Nong Bunnak and Chalerm Phrakiat. Each agent allegedly takes and records bets from local gamblers on paper sheets, and forwards records to the gang.

Each drawing has at least five million baht in circulation. The racket has been operated for more than 10 years, the source said.

Pol Col Banpot tole the media  that he and all investigators would proceed with the case in a straightforward manner, and would not allow anyone to interfere. 

Asked if he was under pressure as one of the suspects has a brother who is an influential figure, the Chok Chai police chief said he had no worries.

“It’s just a normal case, nothing complicated. I am confident that police have enough evidence to prosecute them,” he said.


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Writer: Prasit Tangprasert
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