LATEST: Japan court holds 'picture pincher' in remand

LATEST: Japan court holds 'picture pincher' in remand

A Japanese court has ordered the detention for 10 days of a senior Thai Commerce Ministry official accused of stealing three paintings from a hotel in Japan, according to a Foreign Ministry source.

The court agreed Thursday to accept the case and he will be held in detention until the hearing begins.

Mr Suphat Saguandeekul, deputy director-general of the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP), was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly stealing the paintings worth about ¥15,000 (4,635 baht) from a hotel in Kyoto.

After the court's decision, Mr Suphat was sent to a police station in Kyoto.

The source said the hotel's executives did not appear to want the case to escalate.

The executives, police and prosecutors will meet Mr Suphat today, and officials from the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Osaka would be allowed to attend, the source said.

According to the source, it is possible that if Mr Suphat offers an apology and is ready to pay compensation, the court may be asked to release him to return to Thailand.

After Mr Suphat was arrested, he asked police not to inform the Thai embassy or the Royal Thai Consulate-General about it, the source said.

Although this is a criminal case, the source said if the hotel wants only compensation from the offender, the court might consider releasing Mr Suphat.

DIP chief Thosapone Dansuputra said a panel would be set up to examine the facts in the case and justice would be given to Mr Suphat, who would be allowed to explain the matter. He said if the official is found to have committed a severe disciplinary violation, the maximum punishment would be dismissal.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the case is a personal issue and the ministry should not be criticised for it. He insisted the ministry would not seek to help Mr Suphat "in the wrong way".

Wiboonlasana Ruamraksa, permanent secretary for commerce, said ministry officials in Osaka have contacted the Japanese police in order to visit Mr Suphat. The request is being considered by the Japanese police, she said.

Mr Suphat was in Japan to attend two intellectual property conferences between Jan 16 and 25.

Ms Wiboonlasana said Mr Suphat has asked for leave of absence in line with his rights. She said thieves face up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to ¥500,000, based on the Japanese criminal code.

If it is not considered as a severe case, an offender could either face up to three years behind bars or pay a fine instead, Ms Wiboonlasana said.

The permanent secretary said it could take 45-90 days before Mr Suphat's case goes to court, which means he would not be able to return to Thailand during that time.

Deputy Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said the accused official did not deny the allegation and had not asked to be given any privileges.

Suphat: Case under negotiation

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