Lao drug money launderer arrested

Lao drug money launderer arrested

NAKHON RATCHASIMA: An alleged money-launderer for a Lao drug network has been arrested in Mukdahan province, with police claiming he "washed" more than 200 million baht over a four-month period.

Watchaphum Sudlar, 41, of Bangkok, was charged with money laundering and paraded at a news conference in Nakhon Ratchasima on Thursday.

Police said they found 1.5 million baht in cash and 55 million kip (about 190,000 baht) in his possession, along with four bank account books and five ATM cards. They also seized a pickup truck, five mobile phones, a five-baht weight gold necklace, a 1.8-carat diamond ring and other items as evidence.

His arrest was a result of an ongoing investigation into the money trail generated by a drug trafficking network based in Laos, which smuggles drugs into the lower northeastern provinces.

Many arrested drug offenders had transferred money into the bank account of a man identified only as Mr A Money, and the cash was later transferred to other accounts. More than 200 million baht had passed through the account over four months, police said.

The investigators followed the money trail, which led to the arrest of Mr Watchaphum at a bank in the Robinson shopping mall in Mukdahan province as he was about to withdraw money.

Mr Watchaphum denied all of the charges.

He told police he ran a currency exchange business in Outhoumphone, in Savannakhet province in Laos, and he would often withdraw 500,000 baht to 5 million baht at a time after customers transferred money into his account. He said he would then take the money to his customers in Laos.

He insisted he had no knowledge about the source of the money that his clients acquired, and he received only fees, which depended on the amount of money his clients wanted to exchange.

Police were not convinced by his explanation, and detained and charged him with colluding in money-laundering.

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