Warrant for 5th suspect 'imminent'

Warrant for 5th suspect 'imminent'

Police arrest activist Srisuwan Janya at his house in Pathum Thani late last month. (Screenshot)
Police arrest activist Srisuwan Janya at his house in Pathum Thani late last month. (Screenshot)

Police will this week seek a warrant for the arrest of a fifth suspect in the high-profile Srisuwan attempted extortion case, Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat Pankaew, deputy commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) said on Monday.

The suspect, however, is of lesser importance to the case than the four individuals arrested so far.

Those four are serial petitioner Srisuwan Janya and three alleged accomplices -- Yoswaris Chuklom, also known as Jeng Dokjik, Phimnattha Chiraphutthiphak, as well as Eakluck Wareechol -- who are believed to have played a major role in the alleged extortion attempts. All four were arrested last week and later granted bail.

It was reported the group, led by activist Mr Srisuwan, are accused of trying to extort Rice Department (RD) director-general Natthakit Khongthip after he was appointed department chief.

Mr Srisuwan, Mr Yoswaris and Ms Phimnattha are accused of demanding 3 million baht (that was later reduced to 1.5 million baht after negotiations) from Mr Natthakit. Mr Srisuwan was arrested at his house in Pathum Thani on Jan 26 when 500,000 baht of the bribe was delivered to his home by undercover police. The three all deny extortion charges and have 15 days to present written defences.

Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat said the investigation team met on Monday for case progress updates and mapped out a plan to widen the probe. He said an arrest warrant for the fifth suspect could be issued on Wednesday or Thursday.

To date, more than 10 people, including RD officials, have been summonsed to give statements. The case involves a great deal of evidence to review, Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat said.

The extortion money was to be deposited in bank accounts opened by proxies who knew about the crime.

Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat said Mr Srisuwan's wife has not been questioned by police so far, adding the suspects may have also targeted other individuals. If any other victims step forward, the police would open new cases.

The anti-corruption police are racing against time to wrap up the investigation. Understaffed, the police are worried the case may keep widening with many witnesses to be interviewed and evidence to be collected pending a deadline for submitting the investigation summary to prosecutors. However, Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat said there is still time to make the case watertight.

Investigators are confident they can wrap up the summary and present it to prosecutors in two months.

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