MPB charges Pongpat, 11 more

MPB charges Pongpat, 11 more

Ring accused of graft, gambling, lese majeste

The Metropolitan Police Bureau has charged former Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) chief Pongpat Chayapan along with 11 other individuals, including senior officers, with operating gambling dens, taking bribes from oil smuggling gangs, and lese majeste.

Police brought nine suspects of lese majeste and bribery charges to be detained at the Criminal Court on Ratchaphisek Road Monday evening. Six of them arrived in the afternoon while the three major suspects including former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chayapan (in white T-shirt) and former CIB deputy chief Pol Maj Gen Kowit Wongrungroj were brought to the court in the evening. (Video and photos by Pattanapong Hirunard)

In raids on Sunday, police discovered billions of baht worth of assets at six houses owned by Pol Lt Gen Pongpat and CIB deputy chief Pol Maj Gen Kowit Wongrungruang.

Besides Pol Lt Gen Pongpat and Pol Maj Gen Kowit, five other officers charged with crimes are Pol Maj Gen Boonsueb Phraithuean, former chief of the Marine Police Division; Pol Col Wuthichat Liansukhon, former chief of the Consumer Protection Police Division's Sub-division 4; Pol Snr Sgt Maj Surasak Channgao, Pol Lt Gen Pongpat's driver; Pol Snr Sgt Maj Chattrin Laothong, Pol Maj Gen Kowit's driver; and Pol Col Kowit Muangnual, chief of Samut Sakhon's Immigration Police Office.

The five civilians charged are Sudathip Muangnual, Pol Col Kowit's wife; Sawong Mungthiang, who turned himself in to police yesterday; Rerngsak Saknarongdech, who is still at large; and Chob Chinprapa and his wife Tiyaphan. Mr Chob and Ms Tiyaphan were arrested on Monday.  

Pol Lt Gen Pongpat, Pol Maj Gen Boonsueb, Pol Maj Gen Kowit and Pol Col Wuthichat face charges involving acting dishonestly, illegally demanding benefits and violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law.

Police submitted the charges to the court yesterday to support the arrest warrants.

Pol Lt Gen Pongpat allegedly colluded with Pol Maj Gen Boonsueb; Pol Col Akkharawut Limrat, former chief of the Crime Suppression Division's Sub-Division 1, who recently plunged to his death in mysterious circumstances and was immediately cremated; and Pol Col Wuthichat to demand 3-5 million baht from police officers — totalling about 50 million baht — in exchange for promotions between Oct 1, 2010, and Nov 11 this year.

Before and after: Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chayapan is seen (above) in a photo taken earlier this year during a crime-busting press conference and, below, at his arrest on Sunday.

Pol Lt Gen Pongpat and Pol Maj Gen Kowit were also charged with operating gambling dens in Huai Khwang at which they allegedly said they would hand the money over to the "monarchy".

Pol Maj Gen Boonsueb is also accused of citing the "monarchy" when taking bribes from oil smuggling gangs amounting to 1-2 million baht per month.

He allegedly delivered 35 million baht to Pol Maj Gen Kowit and 118 million baht to Pol Lt Gen Pongpant between Dec 28, 2011, and July 18 this year.

Two other officers, Pol Snr Sgt Maj Surasak and Pol Snr Sgt Maj Chattrin, are charged with malfeasance and extortion.

Pol Col Kowit, meanwhile, faces deforestation and forest encroachment charges. His wife, Sudathip, faces the same charges.

Mr Sawong and Mr Rerngsak are charged with possessing the carcasses of several protected species.

Mr Chob and his wife Tiyaphan are charged with extortion.

Mr Chob, reportedly a deputy director of a school in Nonthaburi, lives near a house of Pol Lt Gen Pongpat's mother in Bang Luai district in the same province.

Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya on Monday discussed their alleged crimes with senior officials at the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) and Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and told the two agencies to start looking into the case to support the police investigation.

The DSI, which handles "special cases", has been told to prepare to take action if police determine the allegations fall within the DSI's purview, while Amlo will investigate the suspects' seized assets, Gen Paiboon said.

"But we want more details from the police first" before launching official probes, he said.

On Monday, police at the Metropolitan Police Bureau questioned the suspects again in the morning before taking them to the Criminal Court in the afternoon in order to ask that they be detained for 12 days until Dec 5.

The court denied a request to release the suspects on bail.

All arrested police suspects, except Pol Col Kowit, have been suspended from their posts. All are currently under disciplinary inquiry.

Asked to respond to the alleged misconduct of senior police officers, deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said only: "Everything must comply with the law."

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