Crusader's alleged extortion network 'large, well organised'

Crusader's alleged extortion network 'large, well organised'

Serial petitioner Srisuwan Janya is arrested at his house in Lam Luk Ka district, Pathum Thani, on Friday. (Photo: Pongpat Wongyala)
Serial petitioner Srisuwan Janya is arrested at his house in Lam Luk Ka district, Pathum Thani, on Friday. (Photo: Pongpat Wongyala)

The alleged extortion gang of anti-corruption complainant Srisuwan Janya is bigger than initially thought, has many targets and includes a mastermind, according to the Central Investigation Bureau.

CIB deputy commissioner Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat Pankaeo said on Monday that police had made good progress in their investigation of the alleged 3-million-baht extortion by Mr Srisuwan's gang of the director-general of the Rice Department.

Police had witnesses and evidence showing the gang was well-organised, with individual members tasked with selecting extortion targets, negotiations, and receiving the extorted money, he said.

"Many other people were involved... One of them seemed to provide the mastermind with the information which would lead to complaints," Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat said.

"There is information indicating that the group demanded about 100 million baht from another organisation but there has not been any payment. The organisation is being contacted for information," he said.

Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat said the information gathered so far indicated that the director-general of the Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation could be another victim of the gang.

There were more suspects at a higher level, apart from the three arrested suspects, and police were preparing a case, Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat said.

"The group gloats about its activities and has no interest in the scope of the law. Someone is rich and has 10 houses and 100 rai of farmland. This will be further checked," the CIB deputy commissioner said.

Mr Srisuwan has a high public profile as an anti-corruption campaigner and persistent petitioner to the courts. The 56-year-old and two other suspects were arrested on Friday for allegedly demanding 3 million baht from Natthakit Khongthip, director-general of the Rice Department, in exchange for sparing him from any corruption complaints.

They were detained during a sting operation in which 500,000 baht in cash was delivered to Mr Srisuwan's house in Pathum Thani province.

Earlier, Mr Srisuwan had headed the Association to Protect the Thai Constitution, but the Department of Provincial Administration dissolved it for failing to meet membership requirements.

He then set up a new organisation named Rak Chat Rak Phaendin (Love Nation, Love Motherland) and announced it would fight attempts to amend or get rid of Section 112 of the Criminal Code, better known as the lese majeste law.

Other objectives included holding politicians, parties and civil servants accountable for acts of corruption and advocating full compliance with the constitution and law.

After his arrest, Mr Srisuwan insisted on his innocence and said there were attempts to stop his activities.

CIB deputy commissioner Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat Pankaeo talks to reporters on Monday. (Photo supplied)

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