DSI links senior police to oil smuggling, South violence

DSI links senior police to oil smuggling, South violence

Former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chayaphan (centre) is escorted from the Criminal Court to the Corrections Department for detention.
Former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chayaphan (centre) is escorted from the Criminal Court to the Corrections Department for detention.

Some of the senior police officers arrested Sunday on lese majeste and bribery charges have been linked to oil smuggling and possibly violence in the far South, authorities said Monday.

Pol Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri, spokesman of the Royal Thai Police and acting commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau, told reporters that evidence in the case against the senior officers indicated that bribes worth millions of baht had been collected monthly from oil smugglers. Investigators were compiling information for public prosecutors, he said.

(Photo by Thanarak Khunton and Pattanapong Hirunard)

The case involves seven police officers and five civilians, including former CIB chief Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chayapan, former CIB deputy chief Pol Maj Gen Kowit Wongrungroj and Pol Col Akkharawut Limrat, the former sub-division chief of the Crime Suppression Division who reportedly died in a fall Thursday. All three had been transferred out of their positions Nov 12.

Pol Lt Gen Prawut said two suspects would turn themselves in on Monday and another, Rerngsak Saknarongdech, remained at large. Officials said about valuables and assets worth 10 billion baht, including a billion baht in cash, were seized from six of Pol Lt Gen Pongpat's houses in recent searches.

Police would ask the Criminal Court to extend the detention of the arrested suspects on Monday. The Royal Thai Police Office would hold a press conference to elaborate on the case later, the spokesman said.

Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said Monday that the Department of Special Investigation learned some government officials and suspects from the private sector were involved in oil smuggling in the South and also were linked to violent incidents in the far South.

Gen Paiboon said DSI has not identified the individuals involved in the smuggling, but oil running was connected to southern violence. The justice minister also said that if the case became more complicated and involved senior police officers, the DSI would consider taking it over.

Other police officers accused in the case are Pol Maj Gen Boonsueb Phraithuean, former chief of the Marine Police Division; Pol Col Wuthichat Liansukhon, former chief of the Anti-Human Trafficking Division's Sub-Division 4; Pol Snr Sgt Maj Surasak Chan-ngao, the driver of Pol Lt Gen Pongpat; Pol Snr Sgt Maj Chattrin Laothong, the driver of Pol Maj Gen Kowit Wongrungroj; and Pol Col Kowit Muangnual, chief of Samut Sakhon's immigration police office.

Police chief Somyot Pumpunmuang reportedly ordered a disciplinary probe against the police officers. He wanted the investigation to be concluded in a month.

A couple, Chorb Shinprapha and his wife Tiyaphan, also were arrested Sunday night and charged with facilitating demands for bribes.

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