Chon Buri police chief moved pending B140m extortion probe
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Chon Buri police chief moved pending B140m extortion probe

Eight officers being investigated for colluding with civilians to shake down online gambling suspects

Pol Maj Gen Kamphon Leelaprapaporn, 54, the chief of Chon Buri police, has been moved to an inactive post along with seven other senior officers pending an investigation into alleged extortion. (Photo supplied/Wassayos Ngamkham)
Pol Maj Gen Kamphon Leelaprapaporn, 54, the chief of Chon Buri police, has been moved to an inactive post along with seven other senior officers pending an investigation into alleged extortion. (Photo supplied/Wassayos Ngamkham)

The Chon Buri provincial police chief is among eight senior officers who have been moved to inactive posts for allegedly colluding with civilians to extort 140 million baht from online gambling suspects.

National police chief Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas on Saturday ordered the transfer of the eight officers to the Royal Thai Police (RTP) operations command centre, said Pol Lt Gen Archayon Kraithong, the RTP spokesman.

The affected officers are Pol Maj Gen Kamphon Leelaprapaporn, 54, chief of Chon Buri police; Pol Lt Col Narongrit Wasuphan, deputy Chon Buri chief; Pol Lt Col Sathian Ratchapongthai, deputy superintendent at Nong Kham station in Chon Buri; Pol Maj Pornthep Phetnuan, investigation chief at Wang Chan station in Rayong; Pol Col Damrong Onta, superintendent at the Cyber Investigation Bureau (CCIB); Pol Maj Nakhonrat Nonseelad, Pol Lt Col Pathomphong Meeyu and Pol Capt Somboon Butdalert.

Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn, the deputy national chief, has been named to head a special investigative panel that will look into the case, said Pol Lt Gen Archayon.

The panel will include investigators from Provincial Police Regions 1 and 2, who will be tasked with gathering evidence. Any officers found guilty would face immediate and serious disciplinary action because the case has badly tarnished the image of police, said Pol Lt Gen Archayon.

Authorities are also investigating two civilians — Phisit “Ton” Nakhisornpanee and Veera “Boy” Nasap — believed to be linked to the eight officers. They are suspected of having been tasked with dealing with gambling suspects.

Pol Gen Surachate said on Saturday that he would seek court approval to arrest the eight officers and two civilians on Sunday. If the court approves the request, the accused would be asked to report to the Royal Thai Police Sports Club on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.

He said investigators would initially press charges of violating Section 157 of the Criminal Code for malfeasance by public officials, and Section 149 for demanding or receiving bribes.

Pol Maj Gen Kamphon on Saturday acknowledged that a complaint had been filed against him by online gambling operators. He said he would explain the facts of the case in a report to the national police chief. (Story continues below)

Pol Lt Gen Archayon Kraithong, spokesman for the Royal Thai Police, briefs reporters on Saturday about the transfers of eight senior police accused of allegedly extorting money from online gambling operators. (Photo: Police TV)

The investigation has made some progress. The financial records of the officers and six people suspected of involvement in online gambling operations are being examined for possible links, said the spokesman.

The transfers came after six people on Thursday filed a complaint with the Khu Khot police station in Pathum Thani, accusing Pol Maj Gen Kamphon and his team of trying to extort 140 million baht from them.

According to the complainants, a team of Chon Buri police officers with warrants arrested them during raids on three locations in Bangkok and Nonthaburi at around 1pm on May 23.

Some complainants were subsequently taken to the Khannayao police station in Bangkok before being taken to Chon Buri to meet Pol Maj Gen Kamphon at his office.

‘How much do you love the commander?’

In accounts that have circulated widely on social media, the Chon Buri chief was quoted as saying to one of the suspects: “There is a way out, Pae. How much do you love the police commander? Write it down (the sum of money).”

After that conversation, Mr Phisit arrived to continue the negotiations, according to Thai media reports. The suspect reportedly offered 20 million baht but Mr Phisit asked for 120 million. They eventually settled on 65 million baht. Mr Veera then entered the room and told the suspect to pay Mr Phisit and he would handle everything to clear up the case.

The arresting team then took the suspect from the Chon Buri headquarters to the Bang Lamung police station at around 11 pm on May 23. The two civilians asked the suspect to contact friends to bring 65 million baht, and the suspect was detained overnight at the station.

The following day, the suspect borrowed money from friends and relatives. The money was reportedly given to Mr Veera and Mr Phisit at two different locations — behind a housing estate in Khu Khut in Pathum Thani and behind a temple in Mae Suai district of Chiang Rai.

After the money was handed over, the arresting team took the suspect to Saensuk police station in Chon Buri, where Pol Maj Gen Kamphon was waiting. The suspect was later released.

Mr Phisit and Mr Veera subsequently got in touch with another suspect who had fled abroad and demanded 30 million baht. The pair also asked to be partners in his online gambling websites and continued to demand more money from him and his other partners.

Eventually the suspects became fed up with the shakedown attempts and decided to file their complaint against the police officers and the two civilians.

Recordings sought

A police source said Pol Gen Surachate would examine security camera recordings from the office of the Chon Buri chief as well as premises that police raided and where extortion attempts allegedly took place.

The source said one of the eight transferred officers had already reported to his immediate commander, Pol Lt Gen Worawat Watnakhonbancha, the CCIB commissioner. The seven others reportedly planned to report to the RTP on Saturday.

The Chon Buri police chief not long ago received an award from the national police chief. Acknowledging a photo that was circulated online, Pol Gen Archayon said it was taken at an event held to recognise outstanding police units across the country, not given to individual officers. In Chon Buri, the award was given on Feb 18 to all police for traffic management and road accident reduction during the New Year holiday.

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