Police raided 11 locations across Greater Bangkok on Tuesday, including a luxury housing project in the Lasalle area of Samut Prakan, where most units were found to have been purchased through a nominee with suspected links to a Chinese crime syndicate under investigation, according to a police source.
The operation was carried out as officers expand their probe into the criminal network believed to be tied to Chinese businessman Chaiyanat "Tuhao" Kornchayanant, who turned himself in last week after Bangkok South Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest over his alleged involvement in the drug trade.
Police searched three out of the 50 houses in the project, which are owned by a suspected nominee of the drug syndicate, the source said, noting officers seized for inspection a Toyota Alphard and three safes.
The housing project consists of 66 units, each costing between 35-60 million baht, the source said.
Citing accounts by witnesses at the project, the source said Chinese tourists were frequently seen being taken to these houses at night for parties, which frequently caused loud noises which disturbed the neighbours.
Police also raided a luxury condominium worth over 100 million baht in the Charoen Nakhon area of Bangkok, where they seized a Porsche 911, two G-Class Mercedes Benz off-roaders, and one Toyota Alphard, said the source.
Authorities believe the syndicate used a Thai nominee to purchase the homes in Samut Prakan, as well as a number of luxury apartments in Bangkok, the source said.
In a related development, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday that Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda was duty-bound to sign the final announcement by the ministry on Aug 30, 2014 that granted Mr Chaiyanat Thai citizenship -- noting the process had been initiated by his predecessor.
The clarification was given by Suttipong Juljarern, permanent secretary for the interior, in response to a claim which said Gen Anupong was the one who approved the naturalisation of the suspected crime ringleader, which went viral on social media.
The claim was accompanied by a Royal Gazette announcement dated Dec 3, 2014, regarding Mr Chaiyanat's citizenship.
The final decision was made by Gen Anupong's predecessor, who approved it as recommended by the ministry's main screening committee, said Mr Suttipong.
He stopped short of naming the interior minister who endorsed Mr Chaiyanat's naturalisation, but Charupong Ruangsuwan occupied that role from Oct 27, 2012 to May 22, 2014.