Inquiry clears traffic officer of demanding money from actress

Inquiry clears traffic officer of demanding money from actress

Driver may now face tax evasion investigation

Actress Panita
Actress Panita "Ning" Tumwattana's recent post on her Instagram about the conduct of a traffic police officer. (Photo captured from 1197 Traffic Police Hotline via the Traffic Police Sub-division 2's traffic control and management Facebook page)

An internal inquiry has concluded that a traffic policeman who stopped a Maserati driven by an actress for a traffic violation on Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road did not demand money, as alleged by the driver.

However, the woman may now find herself answering to case officers in a Department of Special Investigation probe into tax evasion in the importation of luxury cars.

Traffic police launched a fact-finding probe following a recent posting on Instagram by actress Panita “Ning’’ Tumwattana, who accused a traffic police officer of attempting to get money from her in exchange for not issuing a traffic violation ticket. 

Ning posted on her Instagram under the name “ningpanita’’, saying “I don’t know the direction, but had to drive a car to go to acting today.  However, I was travelling in a wrong lane and changed to another lane  and a police officer stopped my vehicle. I admitted it was right to stop those who violated a traffic rule. I said to the officer, issue a traffic ticket to me (I admitted I was wrong, not tried to cause trouble.). But the officer kept asking me questions and walking around. He even asked about the model of my car. This, I knew, meant he wanted money. Many people often say please help (when seeing police). I then said to him that I apologised for wasting his time. Issue a ticket to me, please.  If I am wrong, I must abide by the rules. If the officer did not penalise me by taking my money there would have been more offenders. This would lead to selfish people in society. Did I speak harshly? It’s true. There are lots of good police, but people also hate police, like the Thai saying, One rotten fish spoils the whole creel.’’ 

In response, the Traffic Police Sub-division 2 control and traffic management centre wrote on its Facebook page on Tuesday that the incident happened at 7.14am on Oct 21 when Pol Cpl Theerapong Khabchanthuek, a traffic policeman on duty, signalled a Maserati with Kor Thor 191 Bangkok licence plates travelling on Vibhavadi Rangsit to pull over for illegally switching lanes.

When asked to show her driving licence the driver produced her ID card, which showed her name. The officer notified her of the charge and checked on her vehicle with the Police Ticket Management system. The plates on the vehicle were registered to a BMW. He then pressed an additional charge against her and issued a traffic ticket, the centre said, citing the results of a fact-finding probe.

The investigation found that  Pol Cpl Theerapong did not act in any way that constituted a potential conflict of interest.

According to a source at the Department of Special Investigation, the plates on the car cropped up during an investigation into tax evasion in the importation of luxury vehicles by several large firms.

Police handling the case would issue a summons for the actress to hand over the Maserati for inspection, and produce import documents for the vehicle, the source said. 

The Department of Special Investigation found a BMW car with Kor Thor 191 Bangkok was registered by a steel firm in Bang Na on Oct 17 this year.

The DSI had initially checked the registration of this car for possible tax evasion, but had no information about the vehicle identification number and the engine number, the source said.

The DSI later checked with the Land Transport Department and found the actress and her husband did not possess a Maserati car. A BMW with the same licence plates was found to have been registered by a steel firm in Bang Na on Oct 17 this year. 

The tax sticker on the Maserati the woman was driving showed the annual tax payment had not been renewed.

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