Ex-minister faces questions over Chuwong

Ex-minister faces questions over Chuwong

Reporters and photographers surround the Lexus SUV in which billionaire Chuwong Sae Tang was found dead last month. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Reporters and photographers surround the Lexus SUV in which billionaire Chuwong Sae Tang was found dead last month. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

Police on Monday hope to question the man who drove the car in which billionaire contractor Chuwong Sae Tang died, as they try to learn more about the huge share transfers the tycoon made just before his death.

The Crime Suppression Division (CSD) has issued a summons for the driver, Banyin Tangpakorn, a former Thai Rak Thai politician who served as deputy commerce minister in the short-lived People Power Party government in 2008.

Officers have not yet been able to contact Pol Lt Col Banyin and are not certain whether he will show up, said Pol Col Jeerapop Puridetch, the chief CSD sub-division 1.

Investigators want to question Pol Lt Col Banyin for the first time since the June 26 accident, having already interrogated three women linked to the share transfers.

If he fails to show up on Monday, another summons will be issued, said Pol Col Jeerapop.

Pol Lt Col Banyin was giving Chuwong a ride home when their Lexus sport utility vehicle hit a tree on Chaloem Phrakiat Road in Prawet district of Bangkok on June 26. Chuwong was killed and Pol Lt Col Banyin sustained minor injuries.

Chuwong's family has raised doubts about the tycoon's death after discovering that a huge number of his shares had been transferred to two women a few days before the crash. They have also suggested that the signatures on the transfer documents had been forged.

Last week, CSD investigators took statements from the two women who had been romantically involved with the late billionaire contractor and the mother of one of them.

Kanthana Siwatawong, 26, a former golf caddie who is seven months’ pregnant, reported to the CSD on Thursday.

Chuwong, 50, the owner of Standard Performance Co, transferred 9.5 million shares in Energy Absolute Plc, valued at 228 million baht, to her name four days before he was found dead.

The woman and her lawyer met assistant police chief Prawut Thavornsiri and central investigation commissioner Thitirat Nonghanpitak.

Her lawyer Seksan Senachoo said Ms Kanthana had known Chuwong for two years and had received the shares legitimately. Chuwong had given them to her out of affection, he said.

On Friday, Uracha Wacharakulton, a 26-year-old broker with AEC Securities Plc, admitted that she had had an affair with Chuwong and that her mother, Srithara Promma, had received nearly 40 million baht worth of shares from him.

The transfers involved tens of thousands of shares in the blue-chip listed companies Central Pattana Plc, Bangkok Bank, and PTT Exploration and Production Plc.

The two women have also spoken to CSD officers, who now want to talk to staff of the brokerage firm that handled the transfers, Pol Col Jeerapop.

So far, authorities have questioned 10 witnesses in the case, he added.

The CSD has also received test results of the tycoon's signatures and documents about the share transfers from the Scientific Crime Detection Division.

He declined to comment further, saying the results represented key evidence that could shed light on the case, he said.

Investigators are still working to verify an audio file purported to contain instructions for the share transfers.

The Chuwong investigation is focusing on two issues: the share transfers and the cause of his death. The CSD is looking into the transfers while the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) is looking into the cause of death.

MBP Commissioner Sriwara Rangsiphramanakul said on Saturday that its investigation results should be known by early August.

Depending on the information that is obtained, investigators may be able to determine whether the death was an accident or murder, he said.

So far, police have charged Pol Lt Col Banyin with reckless driving causing death.

Chuwong’s son, daughter and older sister lodged a petition earlier with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, asking him to investigate whether foul play was involved in the businessman’s death.

In the petition, the family said they did not find skid marks on the road at the crash scene. As well, they claim that Pol Lt Col Banyin's wife, who owned the Lexus SUV, did not alert them about the accident until two hours after it happened. They also said they suspected that the force of the collision appeared not serious enough to kill Chuwong.

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