Amlo widens ‘log trader’ assets probe

The Anti-Money Laundering Office has frozen an additional 27 million baht worth of assets belonging to alleged Siamese rosewood smuggling kingpin Kampanart Chaiyamart.

Seehanat: Agency hot on phayung cash trail

Amlo has been examining Mr Kampanart's assets, including bank accounts and land holdings, as it attempts to track money allegedly obtained from smuggling the rare timber, known in Thai as phayung, abroad.

Mr Kampanart, who also goes by the nickname Sia Tang, was arrested by police in Nakhon Ratchasima on April 19 for his alleged involvement in the illegal trade of phayung wood.

He is believed to be one of the major phayung traders in the Northeast, and has allegedly been involved in the illegal business since 2000.

Although he was later freed on bail, about 200 million baht worth of Mr Kampanart's assets have since been ordered frozen by Amlo for 90 days while the agency investigates the money trail.

Amlo secretary-general Seehanat Prayoonrat said an initial probe found large sums of money had been transferred from Laos to Thailand and Malaysia via Mr Kampanart’s bank account.

He said Mr Kampanart is suspected of being one of eight people who served as go-betweens, receiving money from Laos and transferring it to people in southern Thailand and Malaysia. Like China, Malaysia is a major destination for phayung wood because of a high market demand, Pol Col Seehanat said.

Amlo has discovered cash transactions between Mr Kampanart and his partners worth as much as 1.1 billion baht between 2010-2013 alone.

Besides the extra 27 million baht worth of assets which have been frozen, Amlo is now also examining more than 100 individual assets owned by Mr Kampanart and his suspected network of partners.

Pol Col Seehanart said Amlo has found that an elder brother of a former Pheu Thai Party member was involved in Mr Kampanart's smuggling syndicate.

“But we have not found any political connection [with illegal phayung logging],” he said.

Phayung wood is highly prized in the furniture industry because of its high resistance to insects and its beautiful grain patterns.

Thailand has declared phayung wood, which grows mainly near the Thai-Lao border in Nong Khai, Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan provinces, as a protected wood species.

Despite efforts to curb illegal logging of the wood, reports of phayung seizures frequently make newspaper headlines.

Pol Col Sihanart said authorities have also been increasing efforts to monitor the illegal smuggling of protected wildlife species, such as pangolins, out of the country, particularly to China.

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Writer: King-oua Laohong
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