On Friday, a former minister and four codefendants pleaded not guilty while one of those charged owned up before the law to the appalling crime. A 67-year-old brother of the judge in a case in which the former deputy commerce minister, Banyin Tangpakorn, was being tried, was abducted and murdered by a gang from Nakhon Sawan on February 4th and February 5th this year.
A former Thai government deputy minister, politician, policeman and a convicted fraudster came before the Central Criminal Court in Bangkok on Friday and pleaded not guilty to a dastardly crime which occurred on February 4th and 5th this year where the older brother of a sitting Thai judge was abducted from the precincts of a Bangkok Court, taken to Nakhon Sawan and murdered.
It is one of the most chilling crimes in Thai legal criminal history. Last February, Thai police assisted by heavily armed Thai Crime Suppression Division Police arrested a former deputy minister of commerce in two successive governments at his home in Nakhon Sawan.
The shock arrests came on Sunday, February 23rd after police had pieced together evidence relating to the kidnapping of an older brother of a Thai judge in the precincts of the Bangkok South Criminal Court on Tuesday, February 4th.
67 year old was detained, bundled into a van and taken to Nakhon Sawan where he was murdered
67-year-old Weerachai Sakuntaprasoet was illegally detained, forced into a van and taken to Nakhon Sawan province where either that day or next, he was murdered.
This happened after the gang realised that their scheme to exercise control over his sister, a diligent judge adjudicating on a fraud case involving the ex-minister was doomed to fail.
The victim’s body was burnt and his ashes thrown into the Chao Phraya River.
Minister accused of dressing as a police officer
In the case before the court today, prosecutors will allege that one of the men involved in the abduction was the former minister himself, 56-year-old Banyin Tangpakorn who is also accused of dressing as a police officer.
Police later revealed that the phone message left intimidating the judge was recorded by authorities.
Armed CSD police swooped on Mr Banyin’s home at the end of February, weeks after the crime
At the end of February, this year, as police swooped on Mr Banyin’s home and took him away, it was revealed that the judge in the case before the court involving Mr Banyin, Phanida Sakuntaprasoet, the sister of the victim in the today’s prosecution, had been warned to drop the case she was trying against the accused.
The fraud case involved an elaborate and creative ฿300 million share swindle linked with Thai property tycoon Chuwong sae Tang in 2015, shortly before he was murdered.
In March, Banyin was sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud in the case he allegedly tried to quash
In March, Mr Banyin was found guilty by the court and sentenced to eight years in prison for the swindle along with two female accomplices who each were sent away for four years.
He is also facing a premeditated murder charge in relation to the death of Mr Chuwong whose body was discovered in 2015 after a suspicious car accident.
The securities fraud only came to light after the family of Mr Chuwong discovered the share transfer after his death.
In March, the Bangkok South Criminal Court found that Mr Banyin was responsible for forging the documents involved in the fraud.
Charged with the premeditated murder of a property tycoon in 2018 after 2015 car accident
Mr Banyin was driving on the day, in 2015, that Mr Chuwong died when a luxury SUV reportedly hit a tree.
Police initially concluded that the death was an accident but reopened the investigation based on a complaint filed by Mr Chuwong’s family.
Mr Banyin was subsequently charged with the murder of Mr Chuwong in 2018 by public prosecutors after the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) took over the enquiry and concluded that the car accident was staged as a cover up to disguise the murder of the wealthy property developer.
It has also been revealed that this investigation led police to examine the death of Mr Banyin’s wife in a similar car accident in 1991 in Bangkok.
Mr Banyin was a senior police officer in the city at the time.
Court of justice supremo described February’s flagrant criminal act as ‘unprecedented’ in Thailand
In February, the disturbing circumstances of this crime led to a statement from the secretary-general of the Court of Justice in Thailand.
‘The abduction of a hostage to affect the court ruling is serious and is unprecedented in the Court of Justice,’ said Sarawut Benjakul after the arrest of the former minister and as details of the case emerged.
Today’s hearing conducted via video link to Bangkok Remand Prison due to coronavirus measures
Today’s hearing before the Central Criminal Court in Bangkok was conducted via a remote video connection with Bangkok’s Remand Prison.
This was due to the coronavirus emergency.
Banyin appeared with five other accused in connection with the investigation.
They were named as 67-year-old Manat Thaptim, 63-year-old Police Senior Sergeant Major Thongchai Wachisatcha, 48-year-old Narongsak Pomchan, 33-year-old Prachawit Sithongsuk and 31-year-old Chatchai Menkun.
Political background of Banyin Tangpakorn
All the accused men are from Nakhon Sawan where Mr Banyin had his political base when he was elected as an MP for the People’s Power Party.
He served in two short-lived administrations led by that party under Prime Ministers Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat in 2008.
The People’s Power Party was a populist one and was closely aligned with former Thai Premier Thaksin Shinawatra ousted in a 2006 coup.
The party was banned by the Constitutional Court in December 2008 for illegal electoral practices and this paved the way for the Democrat Party government led by Abhisit Vejjajiva later that month.
One defendant has pleaded guilty to the abduction and murder of the 67-year-old brother of the judge
One of the defendants before the court today pleaded guilty to the charges before him including the abduction and murder of Weerachai Sakuntaprasoet, the brother of Judge Phanida Sakuntaprasoet in February.
This was 48-year old Narongsak Pomchan.
Banyin himself and the other four co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The court will sit again in a month to begin a full hearing of the case.