Absent Amelia hit with 33-year jail term for drugs

Absent Amelia hit with 33-year jail term for drugs

Appeal Court hands down much stiffer penalty to actress thought to have fled the country

A fresh ruling sentencing TV actress and former Miss Teen Thailand Amelia "Amy" Jacobs to 33 years in prison by the Appeal Court has put the spotlight back on the case after the new sentences were much higher than the initial court's, with the defendant having reportedly flown out of the country last year and yet to return.

Amelia, 30, was sentenced to three months in jail, suspended for two years, and fined 5,000 baht by the Min Buri Court for taking drugs in August 2018.

On Thursday the Appeal Court revised the sentence and handed down life imprisonment and a fine of 1 million baht for the drug offence. However, the court reduced the jail sentence and the fine to 33 years and four months and 666,666.67 baht citing her useful testimony.

The actress failed to appear for the Appeal Court's ruling and the sentence was read out in her absence.

Amelia reportedly left the country on Aug 22 last year, while the suspended jail term was still in effect. A bench warrant has been issued for her arrest with the statute of limitations on the crime lasting 30 years.

Pol Maj Gen Chuchat Thareechat, deputy Immigration Bureau chief, said his office is checking into Amelia's whereabouts but could not disclose the information to the public.

On his Facebook, high-profile activist Atchariya Ruengrattanapong said the actress had left on Aug 22 last year for Dubai and never returned.

Amelia was arrested along with her boyfriend, Punyawat Hirantecha, at a house in Chaiyapruek housing estate on Sukhaphiban 5 Road on Sept 19, 2017, following the arrest of a man who claimed he bought drugs from Mr Punyawat. Crystal meth was found in his possession.

Police seized 70 grammes of crystal meth, 16 ecstasy pills, a scale and drug use paraphernalia from the pair who were arraigned on charges of collusion in having the drugs in their possession for use and sale.

Mr Punyawat confessed to all charges, while the actress admitted only to taking illicit drugs.

The court sentenced Mr Punyawat to a total of 25 years, four months and 15 days in jail with a 750,000 baht fine, and handed Amelia a prison term of six months and a fine of 10,000 baht for drug use. The sentence was then commuted by half because she cooperated, and the jail sentence suspended for two years. The court acquitted her of possession with intent to sell.

However, Mr Atchariya, head of the Help Crime Victims Club who was unhappy with the outcome, kicked up a fuss, leading to a disciplinary investigation against five police officers and the arrest of a defence lawyer on charges of falsifying and using fake official documents.

According to Mr Atchariya, in appealing the lower court's ruling, the prosecutors gave evidence indicating that the actress was aware of the quantity of drugs in the house and was involved in their sale.

In February this year, Sittha Biabangkerd, who represents the actress, was arrested at his law office in Samut Sakhon's Krathum Baen district on charges of falsifying and using fake official documents.

He was apprehended under a warrant issued by the Min Buri Criminal Court and Mr Atchariya claimed on that day the arrest was linked to the drugs case involving Amelia. The defence lawyer denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Atchariya's efforts in exposing alleged irregularities in Amelia's case included a petition with the Metropolitan Police Bureau seeking a fact-finding inquiry.

This led to a disciplinary investigation against five policemen for allegedly helping the actress get off lightly.

He also lodged another petition seeking an investigation into the conduct of five police officers at Thammasala station the sale of arrest records for 1.5 million baht to help a major drug suspect.

Mr Atchariya alleged that these policemen were part of the gang that helped drug suspects in at least five cases, including Amelia's, to get off.

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