Police at an early morning checkpoint were wrong to release a visiting Taiwanese actress caught with a prohibited vapouriser and were being investigated for possible extortion in exchange for allowing her to leave, the Metropolitan Police Bureau chief said.
Pol Lt Gen Thiti Saengsawang told a press conference at the bureau on Monday that an initial investigation found that the policemen set up a checkpoint in front of the Chinese embassy and the tourist was seen in camera footage with the vapouriser in her possession.
The investigation grew out of the controversy over the extortion alleged by Taiwanese actress Charlene An, who complained that police stopped her vehicle in the early morning of Jan 4 and extorted 27,000 baht from her in exchange for her freedom.
The checkpoint was in front of the Chinese embassy on Ratchadaphisek Road, which is under the jurisdiction of Huai Khwang police station.
"The policemen on duty who found the vapouriser did not impound it for examination and prosecution, but let the tourist who possessed it leave the checkpoint," Pol Lt Gen Thiti said.
"Initially they were found to be derelict in their duty... The Metropolitan Police Bureau has checked evidence and witnesses and ordered decisive disciplinary and criminal action," The MPB chief said.
The bureau was still compiling the evidence, which included witness reports and recorded confessions by the policemen concerned, and information about the exact amount of money involved.
"Existing findings from the investigation are in line with speculation in news reports. Witnesses are being called to confirm the wrongdoing, the amount of money given, the person who gave a bribe for the release of the tourist and the officer who took it," Pol Lt Gen Thiti said.
When the evidence was clear, decisive legal action would be taken. No one would be spared, he said.
Investigators would find out why the visiting actress's group was held at the checkpoint for so long, Pol Lt Gen Thiti said.
He said the police helmet camera recordings were erased. Forensics would find out if they were manually erased or expired automatically.
There was also footage from City Hall surveillance cameras, which was not erased, he said.
"The MPB must apologise to people for the police failure to strictly follow rules and laws... . The MPB will keep the public posted when there are developments in the case," Pol Lt Gen Thiti said.
Pol Maj Gen Achayon Kraithong, spokesman for the Royal Thai Police Office, said national police chief Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas had ordered the Bangkok police chief to transfer the chief of Huai Khwang station to an inactive position while the investigation continued.