Two cops, prosecutor suspects in rhino horn smuggling

Two cops, prosecutor suspects in rhino horn smuggling

Customs officials display 21 rhino horns seized at Suvarnabhumi airport on March 10. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Customs officials display 21 rhino horns seized at Suvarnabhumi airport on March 10. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

Two police officers and a state prosecutor have been transferred to inactive posts to ensure an unhindered investigation into their alleged links with two rhinoceros horn smugglers.

The transfer orders came after surveillance camera footage at Suvarnabhumi airport showed them allegedly trying to stop customs officials x-ray scanning a hard-shell suitcase found to contain 21 rhino horns in the possession of two women travellers on March 10.

The horns, weighing almost 50 kilogrammes, were smuggled from Ethiopia and were estimated to be worth 173 million baht on the black market.

Pol Maj Gen Thammanoon Trithipayapong, chief of Samut Prakan police, has ordered the two police officers transferred immediately work at his office, police spokesman Pol Col Krissana Pattanachareon said on Friday.

Customs officials check the hard-shell bag after rhino horns were seen inside when it was scanned. (Photo by Suthiwit Chayutworakan)

Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Chalermkiat Sriworakan will lead the investigation into their suspected involvement in the smuggling. They would face stern disciplinary punishment and criminal charges if found to be involved, the spokesman added.

He did not disclose the names of the two officers and their positions. However, they reportedly hold the rank of police colonel and work at Suvarnabhumi airport police station.

The prosecutor was named by the Office of the Attorney General (AOG) on Thursday as Pol Maj Worapas Boonsri, a deputy chief prosecutor in Saraburi.

He will be moved to the Bangkok office, effective April 3, OAG spokesman Somnuek Siengkong said on Thursday.

An inquiry panel has already been set up to look into the matter, he added.

The three lawmen were seen accompanying the two women, with the bag on a trolley, on their way from the luggage collection area to the arrivals area on March 10. Customs officials stopped them to have the suitcase scanned.

The three men were seen talking to the customs officers, telling them to let the women and the bag pass through.

The customs officers insisted on checking the bag and when it was put it into the x-ray scanner, all five were seen walking quickly away.

The women were identified as Kansini Anutranusart and Thirirat Ara-ie. Mrs Kansini had flown into Bangkok from Ho Chi Minh City on a Vietnam Airlines flight and Mrs Thitirat arrived at the airport from Phnom Penh by Thai Airways.

The two women met at the airport on arrival and collected the waiting bag, which had arrived at Suvarnabhumi from Ethiopia on an Ethiopian Airlines flight on March 9.

Police are hunting the two after arrest warrants have been issued. They are believed to be members of a wildlife trafficking gang.

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