Police say suspects 'linked to graft network'

Police say suspects 'linked to graft network'

Paiboon rebuffs calls to shut temporary jail

Authorities say
Authorities say "suicide victim" Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapa had a large cache of luxury goods and cache, much of it possibly obtained from the network headed by Pongpat Chayaphan, the former police lieutenant-general who was busted last year. (Bangkok Post photo)

Police are tracing the links between recently arrested lese-majeste suspects and the purged network of former Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) chief Pongpat Chayaphan. 

Several assets belonging to Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapa -- the suspect found dead in his cell last week -- belonged to people from Pongpat's network of corruption, police sources said. The Pongpat network was crushed late last year, wth many member including the former police lieutenant-general sentenced to long prison sentences. 

Pongpat was charged on several counts, including violating the lese-majeste law, demanding kickbacks for police transfers and asking for bribes from oil-smuggling networks.

Pol Maj Prakrom was found hanging inside his cell at a detention facility attached to the 11th Army Circle on Friday night.

He was one of three suspects charged last week with violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code, for allegedly making false claims about the monarchy for personal gain. The other suspects are Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, a well-known fortune-teller also known as Mor Yong, and his close aide Jirawong Watthanathewasilp.

According to the sources, it surfaced during the investigation that Pol Maj Prakrom owned 26 rooms in La Maison Condominium on Soi Phahon Yothin 24. He had also paid for another four rooms worth 500,000 baht each but had not yet obtained the ownership rights.

Hundreds of thousands of baht in foreign currency, including US dollars and Japanese yen, were found in his rooms.

Several cars owned by Pol Maj Prakrom, including a Bentley, a Rolls-Royce, a Mercedes-Benz and a Toyota, were found parked on the fifth floor of the condo's parking building. 

The sources said most of the 10 valuable Buddha amulets found in Pol Maj Prakrom's safe belonged to Pol Col Akkharawut Limrat, the former chief of the Crime Suppression Division's Sub-Division 1 and a former member of Pongpat's network who died after falling from a building.

Also in Pol Maj Prakrom's rooms were three guitars, including one worth more than 400,000 baht. The guitars belonged to Pongpat, who bought them from a shop in Pathum Thani.

Several Buddha images held by Pol Maj Prakrom had earlier been seized from Pongpat's network.

The raid also discovered more than 200 radio communication devices and five signal antennae. Pol Maj Prakrom had taken the devices from the communications police, saying he needed it for work, the sources said. 

Investigators found the antennae were wired to a high building. They believe the suspect may have been using them for eavesdropping, the sources said.

Six police cars which Pol Maj Prakrom had ordered for use in his work have also disappeared.

Meanwhile, a raid on Mr Suriyan's room in Phahonyothin Park Condo in Soi Phahon Yothin 14 found his computer, from which he had tried to erase some data, the sources said. 

Based on the recovered data, there are details about his contact with private companies in relation to the "Bike For Mom" cycling event in August. Mr Suriyan served as an adviser to a subcommittee responsible for holding the event. An investigation into Mr Suriyan's money trail found he had funnelled money to his relatives to buy assets for what police believed was money laundering.

The seized documents, according to the sources, also revealed he cited the monarchy to collect millions of baht from many private companies, including asking for more than 100 million baht from a giant firm to sponsor bicycles for the "Bike for Dad" event scheduled for December.

The company had tipped off the Royal Thai Police, which prompted them to set up a panel to secretly investigate the matter before the arrests of the three suspects.

National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda will hold a news conference about the case on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Corrections Department chief Withaya Suriyawong said Mr Suriyan was taken to have a brain scan at a hospital on Thursday after he appeared to suffer from mouth and facial palsy. 

"The test result showed no sign of problems, raising suspicious he may have tried to fake illness," the department chief said.

The autopsy results from Pol Maj Prakrom's body found he died from asphyxia caused by neck compression, said Mr Withaya. His body was handed over to his relatives Monday morning, and cremated in the afternoon at a temple in Nonthaburi, he added.

Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said the panel consists of representatives from prosecutors, police, administration officers and forensic doctors. There was no need to send his body for a post-mortem at the Police General Hospital's Institute of Forensic Medicine, the minister said.

Responding to calls by human right activists to shut down the temporary prison at the 11th Military Circle, Gen Paiboon said the facility was established to confine Erawan bombing suspects and had never had problems before. Detainees at the facility have the same rights as those in ordinary prisons, he said. 

The temporary prison is necessary to speed up investigations, Gen Paiboon said, urging the public to prioritise national interests and not just human rights.

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