Police thwart drug money laundering op
Transactions exceed one billion baht
Police arrested six people during raids in Samut Prakan and Nonthaburi provinces and seized assets worth about 100 million baht yesterday, in an operation aimed at suspects in the laundering of a billion baht of drug traffickers' money.
Six premises were searched in Samut Prakan. The prime location was house 129/72 in Chaiyapruek housing estate in tambon Bang Muang of Muang district. It belongs to Naruepol Phapphithee and his wife Patthama Buathong, who were named in arrest warrants.
Police suspect them of laundering money for several drug gang leaders, including Pannawit Prathum, aka Kokae and Theppabut Solo, who leads the Mun Took Med ("Every Pill is Fun") drug gang and is believed to be hiding in Myanmar but still trafficking in Thailand.
At the house police arrested Ms Patthama and detained her friend Wimol Chuenchomwathana. Mr Naruepol was arrested at a private hospital in Bangkok where he was being treated for influenza.
Police found about 18 million baht in cash in the house, as well as luxury watches and gold bars stashed in a bag and a safe. Police believed the cash had just been withdrawn from banks. The father of Mr Naruepol said he did not know when the cash was brought into the house, but believed it came from his son's business.
Ms Patthama said the money was proceeds from her husband's online gambling business and had nothing to do with any illicit drug business. She also said her husband hired other people to withdraw money from accounts and deposit it to other accounts because he did not have enough time to it himself.
Police allege her friend Wimol opened bank accounts for the couple and was paid 15,000 baht a month to withdraw and deliver cash to their house.
Pol Col Krisada Sri-isan, a superintendent of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, said the raids followed information acquired from two suspects arrested with 500,000 methamphetamine pills in Phitsanulok province late last month.
The suspects told police that drug money was stored at the house in Samut Prakan before being transferred to accounts opened at bank branches near the border.
At a house owned by Mr Naruepol's uncle, police found another 5.5 million baht in cash stored in a washing machine. The cash together with vehicles and other assets were seized. Three other suspects were also arrested in yesterday's raids. The seized assets were worth an estimated 100 million baht.
Police said transactions totalling more than one billion baht had passed through the suspects' accounts.