Friday’s police operations assisted by the elite Hanuman unit of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), seized the property empire and assets of gambling kingpin, Somchai Jutikitdet, believed to be behind the network of dens in Eastern Thailand that sparked a second wave of the virus last year in the region. The 56-year-old, who was woken at 6 am by a police raid on his home, may also face charges of premeditated murder once officers are finished questioning him on his links to a contract killing in July 2020.
The Eastern provinces gambling godfather was found by police cowering inside his mansion on Friday morning and placed under arrest for ordering the murder of a 47-year-old motorcycle taxi driver last July in Pattaya. His 26-year-old son, found in the house with him, was arrested on money laundering charges as police, backed by the elite Hanuman unit, carried out operations in four different provinces leading to the seizure of up to ฿880 million in assets and were reported to be seeking to arrest at least 22 people.
Thai police units including the elite Hanuman unit of the Crime Suppression Division were a part of a large police and military task force which carried out a series of raids and operations across 4 provinces early on Friday targeting the criminal empire of 56-year-old Mr Somchai Jutikitdet.
He was also arrested previously at his luxury home in Rayong province in February after he was identified as the kingpin behind a gambling network operating in the eastern provinces of Thailand partly responsible, at the end of 2020, for setting off the second wave of the virus in the country.
On that occasion, there was public anxiety when Mr Somchai, also known as ‘Longjoo Somchai’ was later granted bail with accusations that his arrest was an elaborate photo-op to assuage negative public opinion relating to his activities which had already seen dozens of senior police officers removed from their posts for collusion with the gambling network.
On Friday, the gambling boss was questioned on the cold-blooded murder of a man in Pattaya last July
This Friday, however, at 6 am, Mr Somchai along with his 26-year-old son Thana was arrested again and this time, the charges were far more serious after police investigating the murder of Prathum Sa-adnak, a 47-year-old moto-taxi driver who was murdered on July 28th last outside a school in Pattaya, identified the gambling godfather as the instigator of the crime.
It is understood investigation police, who have not yet revealed the full details of their evidence, are satisfied that Mr Somchai paid ฿3 million to have the man executed because he had been linked to an operation to surreptitiously photograph an illegal gambling den in Pattaya which was part of Mr Somchai’s empire.
Two of his managers in Pattaya arrested in December 2020 and admitted their part in the contract killing
On December 9th last, police officers arrested 53-year-old Suphan Mai-ngam and 53-year-old Thaworn Sarakul in Pattaya. Both men were managers of the Pattaya gambling den then operated by Mr Somchai in the resort city.
It is understood they told police that they were ordered by their boss to put out a contract or hit on the motorcycle taxi driver. This led to the murder of Mr Pathum at the hands of contract killers 39-year-old Manas Imnam and 47-year-old Niphon Panthong.
Both these men, when apprehended by police, told officers they had killed the man due to a personal quarrel with him.
However, the family of 47-year-old Mr Prathum never accepted this and brought their concerns about the case to Bangkok and the National Police Commissioner, Police General Suwat Jangyodsuk.
Police had to scale walls to arrest Mr Somchai
Mr Somchai was located on Friday morning by police who had to use ladders to climb over a high wall and gain access to his mansion on a 2 rai plot in the heart of Rayong.
There, they found the crime boss hiding with his 26-year-old son who was also arrested by officers on charges of money laundering and other offences.
It is believed he is the director of a company linked to a housing development in Pattaya which police believe to be at the centre of a massive money-laundering operation being run by the illegal gambling empire.
Co-ordinated police operations, on Friday, took place in Chonburi, Rayong, Chanthaburi provinces as well as Bangkok and saw police and armed units descend on a plethora of properties.
Massive police operation across four provinces led to ฿880 million seized by police with 35 arrest warrants
Based on their ongoing investigation, police were seeking to execute 35 separate arrest warrants against up to 22 suspects in the case and were seeking to seize up to ฿880 million in assets including a luxury ฿8 million yacht seized on Friday morning at its marina together with 377 housing units, other properties and cars belonging to Mr Somchai.
A press conference was fronted by senior officers including Crime Suppression Division commander, Police Major General Jiraphop Phuridech and Deputy Police Commissioner, Chatthiraphon Tan-sang.
Details on the case were given to the media and questions were taken.
The drug kingpin is believed to be in the custody of the police Crime Suppression Division (CSD) who are questioning him on aspects of the case.