'Big Joke' denies online gambling ties

'Big Joke' denies online gambling ties

Surachate: No charges yet
Surachate: No charges yet

Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn on Thursday denied any involvement with online gambling networks, before pointing out that no charges have been pressed against him so far.

Responding to rumours circulating early this week, Pol Gen Surachate said no charges have been laid against him since the highly publicised search of his house last year.

Only the cases against eight other individuals, which included some of his subordinates, were forwarded to prosecutors, he said.

When asked to clarify claims of an ongoing investigation targeting him and four other individuals by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), Pol Gen Surachate said while the anti-graft agency has indeed received a complaint, it has yet to initiate any proceedings against those named in the report.

If the NACC decides to accept the case, it would still have to launch an inquiry to determine if it would press charges, he said.

On Wednesday, deputy commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat Pankaew, announced at a press conference that Pol Gen Surachate and four others were being investigated and could face multiple charges in connection to the online gambling network operated by Suchanun Sucharitchinsri, also known as "Minnie".

The charges include malfeasance and accepting bribes, which violate sections 157 and 149 of the Criminal Code.

Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat said the investigation is being handled by the NACC because it involves high-level police officers. However, he believed the police should be involved because of the large number of suspects, at 61.

Pol Gen Surachate, meanwhile, blasted the call for the NACC to refer the investigation to the police.

"Who are you to pressure the NACC? This is clearly overstepping the mark," Pol Gen Surachate said.

Pol Gen Surachate also said he was not in charge of suppressing online gambling websites, so he did not have anything to do with their illegal operations, including accepting kickbacks.

He added that the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) would be called to step in if the total amount of assets suspected to have been laundered exceeds 300 million baht.

Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat insisted on Thursday police were not pressuring the NACC to hand over the investigation. However, he believed the investigation would be more swift if it was handled by the police because they had already worked on a related case, he noted.

When asked about progress in the probe into financial transactions involved in the gambling network, the CIB deputy chief said investigators have evidence to substantiate the allegations against the suspects.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on Thursday Pol Gen Surachate is innocent until proven otherwise and he must be given a chance to defend himself.

The prime minister declined to comment when asked if the issue was a ploy to discredit the deputy police chief and undermine his chance of being appointed police chief.

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