Four immigration officers accused of abducting a Chinese man and his Thai interpreter, and extorting cryptocurrency from them, have been suspended from the force pending further investigation. Arrest warrants have been issued.
The Chinese man, who was not named, and his 38-year-old interpreter, Namsee Sae Lee, filed a complaint with Din Daeng police on March 20. They said that on March 10, a group of men abducted them from a house in Din Daeng and took them in a car to a house in Soi Prachasongkroh 2, also in the Din Daeng area.
The group demanded payment for their release, which was paid in USDT (tether), a stablecoin pegged to the US dollar. The amount paid was reported to have been 30,000 USDT, worth about one million baht. Subsequent reports in the Thai media have put the amount as high as 10 million baht.
National police chief Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas said yesterday he had ordered the investigation to be accelerated as it is a serious case involving state officials. He said the two victims and a Chinese friend were going to a house on Soi Trakulsuk in Din Daeng.
A group of five men in three cars were parked in front of the house. The men claimed to be police and asked to see their documents. The officers then asked the Chinese man and his interpreter to get in one of the cars to go to the Chaeng Wattana government complex.
Inside the car, the police allegedly tried to negotiate for the pair's release through the Chinese friend, initially demanding payment of 10 million baht to be issued in tether coins.
They drove around the Chaeng Wattana area while the Chinese friend transferred an unspecified amount to them. The victims were later freed at Chaeng Wattana government complex, the national police chief said.
Pol Gen Damrongsak confirmed the arrest warrants were for Pol Maj Sorawit Inlab, a police inspector at Immigration Bureau Division 1; Pol Maj Jiraphat Boonnam, also a police inspector at Division 1; Pol Lt Suriya Rukkhachart, a deputy investigator, and Pol Snr Sgt Maj Peerasak Yimpaiboon.
The four face charges that include colluding in illegal detention, depriving others of their freedom, coercion with threats to life or body, and abuse of authority, he said.
About 11.45pm on Tuesday, officers from Immigration Division 1 escorted three of the four accused officers to Din Daeng station.
They denied any involvement in the abduction and were due to appear in court yesterday when investigators would seek to detain them for another 12 days.
Deputy police chief Pol Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn said the fourth accused officer, Pol Maj Jiraphat Boonnam, remained at large. His whereabouts were unknown, but the man is expected to turn himself in soon.
He has ordered investigators to look into any complaints made in the past about the conduct of the four accused officers. It is unlikely this was their first offence of this nature, he said.