Dept vows to appeal Premchai acquittal

Dept vows to appeal Premchai acquittal

Premchai Karnasuta is at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Premchai Karnasuta is at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has vowed to appeal Tuesday's court verdict acquitting construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta and his wife of illegal ivory possession.

"We need to acquire and provide firm evidence [of guilt] to the Appeal Court," said Sompoch Manee­rat, the department's spokesman.

"The point is that the defendants falsely de­clared possession of the Afri­can ivory and that is against the law," he added.

The Criminal Court on Tuesday acquitted Premchai, 65, president of Italian-Thai Development Plc, his wife Khanitta, 65, and an associate Wandee Somphum of illegal possession of two pairs of African elephant tusks.

Ms Khanitta insisted the tusks were part of a family inheritance, and the court found the defendants had no intention to conceal the tusks as charged.

The trial stemmed from a search of Premchai's home on Soi Sun Wichai 3 in Huai Khwang district, Bangkok, on Feb 7 last year, which turned up the tusks along with 43 guns and ammunition.

Tuesday's verdict was the first bit of good news for Premchai since he was arrested on Feb 4 last year in Kanchanaburi's Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, where he was found with firearms and the carcasses of protected animals, including a rare black leopard.

In August this year, the Criminal Court sentenced the construction tycoon to six months in prison for illegally possessing firearms.

He also received a one-year jail term after being found guilty of trying to bribe park rangers following his arrest in the wildlife sanctuary, located in Thong Pha Phum district.

In March, Premchai was given a 16-month jail sentence for crimes connected to poaching in the wildlife sanctuary.

Premchai is currently appealing these convictions.

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