Pongpat allies surrender
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Pongpat allies surrender

Men are accused of abducting creditor

Two more suspects from the alleged criminal network of former Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) chief Pongpat Chayapan have been arrested, bringing the total of those apprehended to 19. 

Court warrants allege Chalach Phothirach and Natthanan Thanawech were involved in a criminal network run by ex-Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Natthanan Thanawech and Chalach Phothirach, who are civilians, turned themselves in to Metropolitan Police Division 5 officers at a house in Soi Suthipong 4 in Din Daeng district late on Saturday night. 

The pair were among five suspects wanted on arrest warrants issued by a court on Friday for citing the monarchy to obtain benefits and money from others, illegally collecting debts, illegally detaining people and extortion.

The other three are Witthaya Theskhunthot — a civilian — and soldiers Sgt Nathakorn Yasri and Sgt Thiraphong Chochampi.

Pol Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri, spokesman for the Royal Thai Police and acting CIB commissioner, said Mr Natthanan and Mr Chalach had contacted police to surrender at the house in Din Daeng. 

The group allegedly tried to abduct businessman and creditor Bandit Chotwitthayakul at his condominium in Bangkok's Bang Kholaem district on June 23 to force him to lower a 120 million baht debt owed by a borrower to 20 million baht. 

The borrower has been identified as Nopporn Suppipat who allegedly hired the network to "negotiate" his debt cuts. The suspects would receive 10% of the cut amounts, police said. 

An argument erupted during the abduction attempt, prompting police to intervene and take all those involved to settle the dispute at Wat Phraya Krai police station.

The suspects and Mr Bandit later left the station and tried to negotiate the debt at a restaurant in Buddha Monthon district of Nakhon Pathom. 

The pair were allegedly in the same criminal network of Natthapol Suwadi (formerly Akkharaphongpricha), Sitthisak Suwadi (formerly Akkharaphongpricha), Narong Suwadi (formerly Akkharaphongpricha), Sutthisak Sutthijit and Chakan Phakphum, who were arrested on Wednesday.

Mr Chalach had said he was Mr Chakan's driver and was hired for 4,000 baht to invite Mr Bandit for talks, Pol Lt Gen Prawut said. The suspect said he was not armed during the incident, he said. 

Pol Lt Gen Prawut said both Mr Natthanan and Mr Chalach were in the illegal debt collection gang. "Mr Chalach acted as a driver, while Mr Natthanan delivered documents by citing the monarchy."

The suspects, however, denied citing the monarchy to ask for the cuts, he said. 

Police on Sunday inspected the restaurant where the debt talks were held. 

Pol Col Kiatnarong Chalermsuk, superintendent of Wat Phraya Krai police station, said Mr Natthapol, Mr Chakan and Mr Narong negotiated the debt cuts with Mr Bandit in the restaurant, while Mr Natthanan and Mr Chalach waited outside. 

The suspects threatened the victim by citing the royal institution, but the talks eventually failed, Pol Col Kiatnarong said. 

Meanwhile, another two suspects named in the five warrants approved last Friday, Sgt Nathakorn and Sgt Thiraphong, have contacted police, arranging to turn themselves in at the Metropolitan Police Bureau this afternoon, said Pol Col Kiatnarong, adding Mr Witthaya, the remaining suspect, remains at large. 

Pol Col Kiatnarong said police are tracking down Mr Witthaya.

A total of 19 suspects linked to the alleged network of Pol Lt Gen Pongpat have been nabbed, two of whom were granted bail during the probe. Three other suspects are still on the run, police said.

Investigators have called in six officers attached to the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) who were thought to be tied to Pol Lt Gen Pongpat's network. Five were cleared, but the one remaining, Pol Lt Col Songrak Kunsri, deputy chief of CSD sub-division 6, can't be found.

Pol Lt Col Songrak was said to have close ties with Pol Lt Gen Pongpat. He failed to report to his superior after returning from a work visit to the United States. 

Pol Lt Col Songrak allegedly knows about the money trail of Pol Lt Gen Pongpat's network as he is close to the ex-CIB chief, Pol Lt Gen Prawut said. 

The officer could not be reached when police sought him for more information. If he fails to turn up in 15 days, he will be dismissed, Pol Lt Gen Prawut said.

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