‘Big Joke’ suspended from police force
text size

‘Big Joke’ suspended from police force

Acting chief signs order as investigation into gambling links and money laundering continues

Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn reported to police on April 2 to answer charges of money laundering. He was subsequently released on bail.
Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn reported to police on April 2 to answer charges of money laundering. He was subsequently released on bail.

The acting national police chief has suspended deputy chief Surachate Hakparn and four subordinates accused of involvement with an online gambling network, according to a source familiar with the case.

The source said Pol Gen Kitrat Panphet signed the order, which took immediate effect on Thursday.

Apart from Pol Gen Surachate, aka Big Joke, the order applied to Pol Col Kittichai Sangkhathaworn, deputy police commander of Songkhla province; Pol Lt Col Krit Pariyaket, deputy chief of the Phra Samut Chedi police station in Samut Prakan; and two traffic patrol policemen: Pol Sgt Natthawut Wadwaew and Pol Sgt Natthanan Chuchak.

All five are suspected of being involved in money-laundering in relation to the BNK Master gambling network.

The source said that Pol Gen Kitrat based the decision on a disciplinary investigation, noting that the courts had approved warrants for the arrest of the five suspects.

Pol Gen Kitrat discussed the decision with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin at Government House after a cabinet meeting on Thursday morning, the source said.

The five have the right to petition against the order.

On March 20, the prime minister transferred Pol Gen Surachate and national police chief Torsak Sukvimol to inactive posts and named Pol Gen Kitrat as the acting chief.

The two sidelined senior officers had been engaged in a long-running feud, with public accusations flying back and forth about involvement with illegal gambling networks.

Pol Gen Surachate on April 2 turned himself in to police to answer charges of money laundering, just hours after investigators obtained a warrant for his arrest. He was subsequently released on bail.

A committee set up by the prime minister to investigate the affair said recently that it had found there were grounds to the allegation that Pol Gen Surachate was involved in money laundering.

On Thursday Pol Gen Kitrat also formed a new investigative committee to look into the roles of the five suspects he suspended.

The committee consists of 14 police officers who range in rank from lieutenant colonel up to general.

It is headed by Pol Gen Sarawut Karnpanich, a deputy national chief, and also includes Pol Lt Gen Nopawat Arayangkun, a deputy police inspector-general; and Pol Maj Gen Montree Theskhan, head of the Crime Suppression Division.

The new panel will follow up on the work of an earlier investigation by a committee that included detectives from the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau.

The previous investigation found that the administrator of the BNK Master gambling website transferred money to a bank account held by Pol Lt Col Krit, though not in his name.

Money was then transferred from that account to the accounts of the two suspected sergeants. They in turn were reportedly ordered to deliver envelopes of cash to Pol Gen Surachate’s residence. The transactions took place between Feb 8 and Nov 3, 2022, the investigators found.

Pol Gen Kitrat Panphet has been serving as acting national police chief since last month when Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin transferred Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol, who held the chief's office, and Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn to inactive posts in the PM's Office pending an investigation into allegations against both men.

Do you like the content of this article?