The scale and depth of this corruption scandal keeps growing with Saturday’s arrest of the niece of a former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice and last Monday’s resignation of the Secretary-general of the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) after damning revelations from whistleblower Chuwit Kamolvisit.
A serving police colonel and niece of a former Minister of Justice in the government of Yingluck Shinawatra was arrested on Saturday in connection with the expanding Du Hao case, the largest of several Chinese triad gangs that the Office of the Attorney-General has termed a threat to national security in Thailand. Police Colonel Wanthanaree Kornchayanant is the wife of Mr Chaiyanat Kornchayanant, the drug kingpin currently being held and facing drug distribution charges before the Bangkok South Municipal Court. The swoops and key arrests followed the resignation of the Secretary-general of the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) on Monday after damning new revelations from whistleblower Chuwit Kamolvisit that it had failed to track money transfers linked to the gang and that Du Hao was a regular visitor to the agency’s offices.
Police on Saturday and Sunday in Bangkok detained 8 people in connection with the ongoing investigation into the Du Hao or alleged Chinese triad network run by Mr Chaiyanat Kornchayanant.
The group included Police Colonel Wanthanaree Kornchayanant who was among a group of 5 people detained by the Metropolitan Police Bureau at Yannawa Police Station in relation to 6 counts of possible money laundering offences while three others detained were being investigated for their involvement in drug distribution activities linked with the business empire of Du Hao or Mr Chaiyanat Kornchayanant who has been held in custody since he was arrested by Deputy Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn on November 23rd as the Bangkok South Municipal Court denied him bail as a flight risk.
Eight warrants issued by the Bangkok South Municipal Court in connection with money laundering offences linked with the Du Hao drug empire
It is understood that eight warrants were issued by the Bangkok South Municipal Court in respect of the other suspects in the expanding case including Police Colonel Wanthanaree who was arrested by police at a Bangkok condominium complex on Saturday.
The key suspect, a serving police officer, is assigned to the foreign affairs section of the Royal Thai Police and is a niece of former Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnok who served as Minister of Justice in the inaugural cabinet of Yingluck Shinawatra from August 2011 to June 2013.
He was a deputy prime minister from June 2013 until May 2014.
General Pracha also served as a former National Police Director General and Commissioner from 1997 to 2000.
Those arrested on Saturday were questioned at length about the charges against them at Yannawa Police Station before being taken on Sunday to the Office of the Attorney-General at 1.20 pm accompanied by their legal advisors and under tight security provided by the Royal Thai Police accompanying the party in force and conducting surveillance throughout the route to the Attorney General’s office at the Boromarajonani Building in the Taling Chan area of Bangkok on the Boromarajonani Road.
Two types of money laundering charges against two distinct groups grilled by officials at Yannawa Police Station and the Office of the Attorney-General
It is understood that 6 charges are being progressed against a group of five people related to suspected money laundering offences connected with the Du Hao property empire.
These five people have been named as Du Hao’s wife, Police Colonel Wanthanaree Kornchayanant, Mr Chatchai Lap Amnuaycharoen, Mr Nuttawut Sri Soft, Mr Sittikorn Praphacharatwong and Mrs Suratwadee Thongpermploy.
However, it is understood separate money laundering charges have been raised against three other accused including Ms Patcharin Itthiwattana, a business partner of Mr Du Hao, Mr Sittipong Tasatthieng and Mr Sithiphaiboon Kamnil.
These charges relate to possible offences linked with transnational organised crime and drug offences consisting of allegations that they assisted such activities by both providing and receiving property for the benefit or assistance of those involved in the illicit trade.
Tight security as eight suspects were detained at Yannawa Police Station, then transferred on Sunday to the Taling Chan Office of the Attorney-General
It is understood that those arrested, which included one accused who was arrested on Sunday or Christmas Day, were interrogated by a large team of investigators and officials at the Office of the Attorney-General while also accompanied by their respective teams of lawyers and advisers.
On Saturday, following the arrest of the seven initial suspects taken in, including Ms Wanthanaree Kornchayanant, to Yannawa Police Station, the media was prohibited from gaining access and questioning those being grilled by investigators at the police station.
A picture of Mrs Chaiyanat Kornchayanant or Du Hao’s wife was taken in a police detention vehicle in which she was heavily concealed by clothing in the form of a hood which together with a face mask, concealed her visage from the media posse.
It is understood that officials at the Office of the Attorney-General, on Sunday, were looking for further information with which to extend the scope of the investigation looking at the financial links of the criminal empire outside Thailand.
Between asset seizures executed by the Royal Thai Police task force and those of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), the total amount seized so far is thought to be ฿4.15 billion.
Secretary-general of the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) resigned on Monday citing health reasons as the investigation both widens and deepens
The latest development follows the dramatic resignation last week of Police Major General Piyapan Pingmuang, the Secretary-general of the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) citing health reasons.
The move followed more revealing disclosures from former politician, massage parlour tycoon and now social activist, Chuwit Kamolvisit alleging close links between senior Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) officials and Du Hao or Mr Chaiyanat Kornchayanant.
The bombshell news prompted government legal advisor Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam to assure the press that the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) can still investigate the agency and its former Secretary-general even after his resignation from the role.
It is understood that Mr Chuwit has suggested a relationship between the drug kingpin and Police Major General Piyapan.
Mr Chuwit was scathing in his criticism of the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) saying it had failed to examine the money trail linked with the huge Chinese triad gangs even after they were requested to do so by the Metropolitan Police Bureau.
He even claimed that Mr Chaiyanat was a regular visitor to the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) and suggested a link between Du Hao and top officials at the agency.
Top-level meeting on Tuesday examined list of state officials at the highest level believed to be on the payroll of the alleged drug kingpin’s empire
It is understood that last Tuesday at the Office of the Attorney-General a top-level meeting was held to examine credible claims of senior officials and figures being on the payroll of the Chinese criminal gang.
That meeting is linked to this weekend’s swoops and the arrest of eight people based on court warrants.
The case is now a top priority at the office while the activities of Du Hao and other Chinese mafia groups are considered to pose a very real threat to national security given the scale of the illegality involved, the insidious relationships between the criminal networks and government agencies and the exploits of the gangs including the use of nominee asset holders as well as the wholesale transfer of Thai identities and citizenship to Chinese children of the gangs.
About the Author
James Morris is a pename for an international writer based in Bangkok who works on various international news media. He is a sub editor with the Thai Examiner news website since it began in 2015. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.