Suspected trafficking money launderer caught

Suspected trafficking money launderer caught

Man flees to Malaysia, Cambodia before arrest

A policeman from the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division escorts Supat Santipiyakul for detention at the Criminal Court on Monday. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
A policeman from the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division escorts Supat Santipiyakul for detention at the Criminal Court on Monday. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

A man allegedly playing a key role in laundering money for human traffickers was sent to jail on Monday after his four-year flight to Malaysia and then Cambodia came to an end on Saturday.

Police of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATPD) escorted Supat Santipiyakul from Thung Song Hong police station to the Criminal Court to seek approval for further detention for another 12 days. The court approved the request and denied him bail.

Police told the court they need to interrogate seven more witnesses, wait for the lab results of Mr Supat's fingerprints and find more details on his background.

Mr Supat, 59, known among local residents as Ko Tok, is a well-known millionaire in tambon Padang Besar, a border town in Sa Dao district of Songkhla province. He was facing charges of human trafficking and money laundering. The allegations are in connection with the gang led by Lt Gen Manas Kongpan, a sacked and jailed army officer.

According to the documents of the ATPD to the court, Mr Supat is allegedly a key figure in the network responsible for laundering the dirty money extorted from the victims. Police have found seven bank accounts under his name at Kasikornbank's Padang Besar branch.

The crimes by the network were committed between 2011 and 2015 and police found 126 financial transactions during the period.

The human-trafficking ring took Rohingya and Bangladeshi people from Bangladesh and Rakhine state in Myanmar to work in Malaysia by putting them in boats to southern Thailand. They were later transported on land to camps in Padang Besar, waiting to be picked up to Malaysia.

There were 103 suspects charged by police and about 20 more are on the run, according to deputy ATPD chief Pol Col Mana Kleepsatabus. Police will continue to find the rest of them, he added.

After a crackdown that included the arrest of Lt Gen Manas and other suspects, Mr Supat fled to Malaysia and later to Cambodia. He was believed to flee the country in 2015 after the crackdown as an arrest warrant was issued for his arrest on Aug 11, 2015.

Immigration police arrested Mr Supat on Saturday at the checkpoint in Aranyaprathet district of Sa Kaeo province and he was taken to the police division in Bangkok for questioning.

Pol Col Mana said on Sunday during a media briefing that Mr Supat admitted he knew Lt Gen Manas and had transferred money to the former army officer. But he claimed the cash was from their duty-free business, not from human trafficking.

Pol Col Mana said Mr Supat could be in and out of the country on the borders with Malaysia and Cambodia during his escape. The former businessman was believed to go to Cambodia for gambling before he was captured on his way back to Thailand.

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