Cops seize B1bn in assets in raid on suspected drug trading hub

Cops seize B1bn in assets in raid on suspected drug trading hub

PHITSANULOK: Police have seized assets worth about 1 billion baht from a gold shop in Muang district and related businesses suspected of being a drug trading hub. The shop owner faces an arrest warrant and his son is in custody.

A 100-strong team of officers from Provincial Police Region 5, narcotics suppression police and other agencies on Saturday searched 13 venues in two provinces. The eight sites in Phitsanulok included the Saeng Prom gold shop, four locations at the Khok Matum market and other sites in Muang district. As well, five sites in Chiang Mai were searched.

The operation followed the arrest of four drug suspects and the seizure of 1.2 million speed pills in Mae Chan district of Chiang Rai on Oct 10.

The suspects implicated Phanthanan Apichaithanathip, son of the gold shop owner, who police arrested before seeking court approval for an arrest warrant for his father, Nanthaphan Apichaithanathip, for colluding in the drug trade.

Officers had earlier arrested two suspects -- Chalermpong Kosiri, 36, and Bulakorn Kaewma, 50 -- at a petrol station in Ayutthaya on the night of Oct 10. Mr Chalermpong was also a son of Mr Nanthaphan's from another relationship, said Pol Col Thawatchai Pongwiwattanachai, deputy investigation chief of Region 5.

The suspects' confessions led to the arrest of six more alleged members of the gang. A police investigation found Mr Nanthaphan was the leader who bought drugs from Lamul Sae Jang, 44, a Muser ethnic trafficker, said Pol Col Thawatchai.

The officers conducting the raids seized 1,428 baht weight of gold ornaments, worth about 28 million baht, from the gold shop's main branch. Also seized were assets related to the shop and its owner, including four dormitories worth 200 million baht, 10 commercial buildings worth 50 million baht, 58 land plots worth 155 million baht, 50 Buddha amulets, three cars and other valuables worth about 500 million baht. The value of the amulets had not yet been assessed.

Pol Gen Suchart Theerasawat, a deputy national police chief, said the rapid expansion of Mr Nanthaphan's businesses had raised suspicions among local business operators.

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