Former asst head, son arrested for laundering drug money

Former asst head, son arrested for laundering drug money

Somsak Sakhonkhiri, 48, a former assistant chief of Nong Phai village in Fang district, Chiang Mai, is arrested during raids on 22 locations targeting drug suspects in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai on Thursday. (Police photo)
Somsak Sakhonkhiri, 48, a former assistant chief of Nong Phai village in Fang district, Chiang Mai, is arrested during raids on 22 locations targeting drug suspects in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai on Thursday. (Police photo)

A former assistant village head and his son accused of duping residents into open bank accounts to launder drug network money have been arrested in Chiang Mai.

A special task force of Narcotics Suppression Bureau officials and army rangers raided a house in tambon Mon Pin of Fang district on Thursday morning to arrest Somsak Sakhonkhiri, 48,  former assistant head of Nong Phai village in Fang district.

They had a warrant for Mr Somsak's arrest for laundering drug money, but he was not there. 

While they were searching the premises, Mr Somsak was spotted running away from behind the house. He didn't make it, and was caught.

Mr Somsak denied any involvement in the drug trade. He admitted he used to take people from his village to open bank accounts, so they could better manage their money.

He said he also accompanied people who had to go to a police station or to court.

He was adamant that helping people in the village open bank accounts had nothing to do with the drug trade. He denied he had hired them to open the accounts to receive drug money, as alleged.

The former assistant village head said he ran when police arrived at his house because he mistook them for robbers.

Police allege Mr Somsak had hired people to open bank accounts to receive money from members of a drug network run by Veera Muenjada, a major drug trafficker who remains at large.

In 2015, Mr Somsak had allegedly accompanied at least 30 local residents to open bank accounts. Money paid into those accounts had later been transferred to drug traffickers in Myanmar.

More than 500 million baht had been circulated through the accounts, according to police. 

Mr Somsak’s son, Charoonroj Sakhonkhiri, 22, was also caught during the raid and faces the same charges.

Two other suspects in separate drug cases were also arrested during raids on 22 locations in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces on Thursday during which 400,000 methamphetamine pills, 200 grammes of heroin, a pistol and other items with a combined value of at least 5 million baht were seized, police said.

The operation also targeted Suda Harncharoenchaikul, a former candidate of the Prachachart Party for Chiang Rai’s constituency 5. 

The 37-year-old woman is wanted on a court warrant for allegedly laundering money from the drug trade. She was not at her house in Thoeng district of Chiang Rai when police arrived.


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