'Benz Racing' sentenced to eight years

'Benz Racing' sentenced to eight years

Associates also jailed for drug trafficking

Akarakit: Guilty of money laundering
Akarakit: Guilty of money laundering

The Criminal Court sentenced Akarakit "Benz Racing" Worarojcharoendet to eight years in prison yesterday for drug-related money laundering, and two of his associates to 24 years for trafficking and money laundering.

Akarakit, 31, Sansern Rasanont, 26, and Angsuporn Ina, 29, had been arraigned by public prosecutors on charges of laundering money and assisting in drug trafficking. They were accused of laundering money in violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act and assisting in drug trafficking under the Act on Measures Suppressing Drug Offenders and the Narcotics Act.

Prosecutors told the court that between November 2016 and February 2017, the three defendants were complicit in the trafficking of methamphetamine and crystal meth supplied by Natthaphol "Boy" Nakkham, who has already been convicted of drug trafficking.

On Nov 26, 2016, police arrested Nop Rattanawisut and other suspects involved in the drug trade, and seized about 140,000 methamphetamine pills and 19 kilogrammes of crystal meth.

Prosecutors told the court that the three defendants opened bank accounts to receive transactions related to the drug ring from Natthaphol. Around 11 million baht had been transferred to various bank accounts via 53 transactions from December 2014 to February 2017.

Akarakit, the husband of actress Napapa "Patt" Tantrakul, spent the money on luxury cars and motorcycles. Akarakit denied all charges. The Criminal Court acquitted Akarakit of assisting in drug trafficking, giving him the benefit of the doubt. He was found guilty of money laundering.

The other two were each sentenced to 20 years in jail for assisting in drug trafficking, and eight additional years each for the money laundering. The eight years were commuted to four because of their guilty plea. They were also fined 400,000 baht each for the drug offence.

The court yesterday granted Akarakit temporary release on bail of 1 million and ordered him to wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet. He is also prohibited from leaving the country without court permission.

The three defendants were arrested after the arrest of Lao drug kingpin Xaysana Keopimpha, 42, in early 2017. The court sentenced Xaysana to life imprisonment in March for smuggling 1.2 million speed pills into Thailand.

On Jan 19, 2017, the drug kingpin was apprehended by the Narcotics Suppression Bureau at Suvarnabhumi airport upon his arrival from Phuket. Shortly after the arrest of Xaysana, the bureau raided 40 locations across the country.

During the raids, several suspects embroiled in the Lao narcotics ring were detained, including Akarakit, and Natthaphol, a key suspect believed to be closely linked to Xaysana and an acquaintance of Akarakit. Among the targeted locations were Akarakit's shop selling auto accessories, and his room in Soi Inthamara 51, both in Bangkok's Din Daeng district.

Police also confiscated a grey Lamborghini Gallardo, several big bikes and two 9mm pistols with 15 bullets from the locations. An investigation indicated Akarakit did not have vehicle registration papers for a BMW super bike while an examination of another super bike found it was registered in Natthaphol's name. Nattaphol later told police that Xaysana's assets were spread over several locations.

Napapa was charged with collusion after they found that her husband had wired 1.9 million baht into her bank account, but the charges were later dropped due to a lack of evidence.

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