Woman linked to Pongpat gang

Woman linked to Pongpat gang

Police are looking to arrest a woman accused of shaking down a business rival with the help of enforcers linked to Pongpat Chayapan, the disgraced former chief of the Central Investigation Bureau.

A warrant is being sought for Nuanrat Hengkitcharoenlert on charges of lese majeste, said Pol Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri, a spokesman for the Royal Thai Police Office.

Ms Nuanrat, 48, was accused of colluding with the criminal gang in citing the monarchy to intimidate Traisorn Theeratrakul into giving up a lucrative ice-making concession at the Talad Thai vegetable wholesale market in Pathum Thani so that she could take it over.

Five of the 19 suspects arrested so far in the Pongpat case are alleged to have specialised in debt collection and related activities by claiming a royal connection. Three of those suspects have been stripped of their royally granted surnames on orders from His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The former CIB chief and his accomplices stand accused of numerous charges, among them receiving bribes in exchange for transferring or promoting police officers, demanding money from oil smuggling gangs, making money from gambling businesses, laundering money, and citing the monarchy as a way to gain benefits.

Police have seized a huge haul of cash, gold, antiques, amulets and cultural and religious artefacts hidden in properties owned by Pol Lt Gen Pongpat. Their value is said to be in the billions of baht but the authenticity of many of the items needs to be verified.

Pol Maj Gen Prawut said on Saturday that experts would be asked to examine gold and diamond ornaments seized from the former CIB chief to determine whether they were genuine or fake.

He said police teams from several agencies were hunting fugitive energy businessman Nopporn Suppipat and alleged oil smuggler Supachai "Sia Jo" Chiangsoemsi of Narathiwat.

Mr Nopporn, the billionaire former chairman of Wind Energy Holding Co (WEH), is believed to have fled the country via Cambodia after a warrant was issued for his arrest on Dec 2. He is said to have secured a visa for Canada.

The 43-year-old businessman is accused of hiring a gang allegedly linked with the Pongpat network to kidnap a creditor to force him to reduce a debt from 120 million to 20 million baht.

Mr Supachai is wanted on an arrest warrant for oil smuggling and is still at large. He allegedly paid huge amounts of bribes to several officials including some in Pol Lt Gen Pongpat's network.

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