Police purge set to follow graft scandal

Police purge set to follow graft scandal

CIB looks to weed out Pongpat allies

A sweeping transfer of senior police officers is expected at the Crime Suppression Division and Marine Police in the wake of the Pongpat Chayapan corruption scandal.

Pol Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri

Acting Central Investigation Bureau commissioner Prawut Thawornsiri said a major shake-up in the bureau's top ranks was imminent, but labelled it a "routine" rotation of senior officers.

"Don't call it a purge," said Pol Lt Gen Prawut, who is also a Royal Thai Police spokesman. "It is for appropriateness … to shore up the image of the CIB. Some may or may not be involved in the [Pongpat] case. I will ensure the re-assignments are based on appropriateness and ability."

It is widely believed the targets of the shake-up will be core operational units that come under the supervision of the CIB. That includes the CSD and the Marine Police, both of which have several high-ranking officers who have been implicated in the Pongpat criminal network.

Pol Lt Gen Pongpat was chief of the CIB until he was arrested late last month, along with more than a dozen alleged associates, amid accusations he was running a massive criminal network.

National police chief Somyot Pumpunmuang has reportedly held talks with Pol Lt Gen Prawut about who should be appointed to key posts at the CIB in a bid to root out any remaining elements of the criminal organisation.

A police source said most deputy commanders and inspectors at the CSD are likely to be transferred. Those likely to be brought in to fill vacant sport are believed to have close ties with deputy national police chief Chakthip Chaichinda. They include Pol Col Phumin Pumpunmuang, a nephew of the national police chief.

Expected to survive the axe are CSD deputy chiefs Pol Col Kornchai Khlaiklueng and Pol Col Nos Sawetlek.

It comes as police on Saturday arrested two more suspects accused of being connected to Pol Lt Gen Pongpat's alleged criminal network.

One of the suspects, Nuanrat Hengkitcharoenlert, who owns an ice factory at Talad Thai market in Pathum Thani, was apprehended after the Military Court issued a warrant for her arrest.

The other suspect, Parinya Rakwathin, managing director of the Chao Phraya Express Boat Co, turned himself in to police to face charges in connection with the corruption scandal.

Both also face charges of lese majeste.

Pol Lt Gen Prawut said Ms Nuanrat is accused of hiring the rogue police officers to intimidate and force a business competitor, Traisorn Theeratrakul, into giving up an ice-making concession at the market so that she could take it over.

Members of the Pongpat network alleged cited the monarchy as part of their intimidation tactics.

Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner Srivarah Rangsipramanakul said Cdr Parinya, a former navy officer, has been implicated by other suspects as the one who introduced billionaire businessman Nopporn Suppipat, 43, to the criminal network.

Mr Nopporn, who remains at large, is accused of hiring a gang allegedly linked to the Pongpat network to kidnap a creditor and force him to reduce a debt from 120 million to 20 million baht. He also faces a lese majeste charge, though is believed to have already fled the country.

According to Pol Lt Gen Prawut, the arrest of Ms Nuanrat was the third time a court had approved warrants for a suspect who allegedly hired the Pongpat gang to intimidate business rivals.

Earlier, Phra Khanong Provincial Court approved warrants for the arrest of used car salesman Preecha Daratrai, 44, and his alleged accomplice, Paichet Methee-ariyapong, 45.

The pair are accused of hiring the gang to abduct creditor Wittaya Panyathaweekul and forcing him to reduce their 30-million-baht debt.

The second case was the military court's approval of a warrant for the arrest of Mr Nopporn.

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