Premchai jailed for 16 months, not guilty of leopard charge

Premchai jailed for 16 months, not guilty of leopard charge

Construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta, centre, arrives at the Thong Pha Phum court in Kanchanaburi province on Tuesday morning. (Photo by Piyarat Chongcharoen)
Construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta, centre, arrives at the Thong Pha Phum court in Kanchanaburi province on Tuesday morning. (Photo by Piyarat Chongcharoen)

KANCHANABURI: Construction billionaire Premchai Karnasuta was sentenced to 16 months in jail for illegal possession of a dead pheasant and weapons, and supporting poaching -- but he was acquitted of any wrongdoing connected with a black leopard carcass found at the scene, which was blamed on other defendants.

The Thong Pha Phum Court gave the ruling on Tuesday morning in the high-profile case, which saw the construction tycoon widely blamed for the killing of a rare black leopard after his group was arrested with the carcasses of protected animals at their unauthorised campsite in the western Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Thong Pha Phum district in early February last year.

The 16-month sentence included six months for illegally carrying weapons, eight months for supporting poaching and two months for possession of a dead kalij pheasant. Premchai was one of four defendants, and the other three took the rap for possessing the black leopard carcass.

Yong Dodkruea was sentenced to 13 months in jail: three months for illegal firearm possession, six months for illegally carrying firearms, and four months for possessing the black leopard carcass. He was acquitted on the charge of illegally collecting forest products.

Nathee Riamsaen was sentenced to four months in jail and fined 10,000 baht for illegally possessing the black leopard carcass, but the jail term was suspended for two years. She was acquitted of illegally possessing and carrying firearms.

Thanee Thummat was sentenced to two years and 17 months in jail: three months for illegal firearm possession, four months for having the leopard carcass, six months for illegally carrying firearms, four months for attempted poaching, one year for poaching and one year for collecting forest products. He was found guilty of all charges.

The court also ordered Premchai and Thanee to pay 2 million baht in compensation related to the case to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

After the ruling, Premchai told reporters that he apologised.

The court later released him and Yong on bail of 400,000 baht each, and Thanee on 500,000 baht, and prohibited them from leaving the country without permission.

Their lawyers said they would appeal.

Premchai, 64, president of Italian-Thai Development Plc, Yong, 66, Nathee, 44, and Thanee, 57, and their lawyers arrived at the court in Thong Pha Phum district at 8.10am in two vehicles. 

Public prosecutors and Wichian Chinnawong, chief of the western Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary who had arrested Mr Premchai's group early last year, arrived at 9am.

Premchai and the three co-defendants were arrested at their unauthorised camp in the wildlife sanctuary on Feb 4 last year in possession of firearms and the carcasses of protected animals, including a rare black leopard. They denied all the charges.

Wichian Chinnawong, chief of the western Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary appears at the court on Tuesday morning. He arrested Mr Premchai's group in February last year. (Photo by Piyarat Chongcharoen)

A small army of journalists waits outside the Thong Pha Phum court on Tuesday morning for the ruling on the black-leopard poaching trial. (Photo by Piyarat Chongcharoen)

Wildlife sanctuary chief Wichian Chinnawong stands guard over Italian-Thai Development president Premchai Karnasuta, sitting, and others at their camp in Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, Kanchanaburi, on Feb 4, 2018. (Photo by Khon Anurak Facebook)


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