Charges expected to be filed at the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases against Police Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon or ‘Ferrari Joe’ and six subordinate officers for the capital murder of Jeerapong Thanapat on August 5th last. Senior officers working with the National Anti-Corruption Commission are also predicting extensive fallout from a probe into the source of Police Colonel Thitisan’s huge wealth which is due to be brought to a conclusion very shortly.
Top brass at the Royal Thai Police are to expedite the removal of Police Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon and six former police officers from the civil service as prosecutors are ready to charge the men with a range of offences including capital murder in relation to the brutal killing of 24-year-old drugs suspect Jeerapong Thanapat on August 5th last in Nakhon Sawan when the man was suffocated to death by police using a plastic bag within an interrogation room at the main police station.
The National Police Commissioner General Suwat Jangyodsuk has promised to speed up the process which should lead ultimately to dismissal from government service of the senior Nakhon Sawan police officer, Police Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon or ‘Ferrari Joe’ who last week, prosecutors announced, along with six colleagues, is to be charged with the capital murder of a 24-year-old drug suspect at Nakhon Sawan Police Station on August 5th last on the basis of the use of torture.
Last week, public prosecutors with the Office of the Attorney-General confirmed the charges are to be brought against the seven former police officers at the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in a matter of days.
Police officers face capital murder for torturing the victim which carries the possibility of the death sentence under Thailand’s Criminal Code
The men are to be indicted on four counts including malfeasance, coercion, abuse of authority and death involving torture.
The latter charge will leave all seven men facing the prospect of the death penalty in the case provided for under Sections 288 and 289 of the Criminal Code.
The main suspect, Police Colonel Thitisan, was arrested by police on August 26th when he surrendered to authorities after initially going on the run following the publication of a leaked video clip of the killing which stunned the kingdom causing public outrage and revulsion.
It later became apparent that 30-year-old Police Colonel Thitisan had managed to accumulate unusual wealth with confirmed assets of hundreds of millions of baht including a ฿20 million Lamborghini car while employed as a senior police officer with a salary of ฿40,000 per month.
Unusual wealth of ‘Ferrari Joe’ soon to be explored as National Anti-Corruption Commission ready to announce expansive findings of its probe
This is still the subject of another investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) which is due to report shortly into the extraordinary circumstances linking Police Colonel Thitisan to the confiscation and impounding of luxury cars, illegally imported into the kingdom, where lucrative rewards were given to police officers by the Customs Department which operates under the Finance Ministry.
Deputy National Police Chief Suchart Theerasawat earlier this month said that the investigation would implicate a large number of people.
Police chief to speed up the removal of ‘Ferrari Joe’
In a separate matter, related to the process to remove the former police officers from government service, when questioned by reporters at Royal Thai Police headquarters on Wednesday, the police chief, General Suwat, revealed that an official file including disciplinary reports and the findings of a disciplinary panel had been sent to his office.
It is understood that the process will lead to the removal of the former police chief at Nakhon Sawan Police Station and his subordinates from government service. The officers have already been removed from the police force but retain their rank.
General Suwat said the facts surrounding the case had not changed and that he would see to it that the matter was given priority.
Central Investigation Bureau recommended to prosecutors that the former police officers face serious charges after a criminal investigation
The decision by prosecutors to press charges against the men came on the back of a recommendation from Police Lieutenant General Jiraphop Phuridech of the Central Investigation Bureau whose officers led a top-level criminal enquiry into the activities of the officers at Nakhon Sawan on August 5th last when they reportedly attempted to extort ฿2 million from a local drug dealer.
The 24-year-old suspect Jeerapong Thanapat, a known small-time drug dealer, had been arrested the same day with his wife and the pair brought into custody at Nakhon Sawan Police Station.
The man is believed to have died as a result of suffocation by a plastic bag at the hands of Police Colonel Thitisan or ‘Ferrari Joe’ with a video clip of the killing springing from the incident weeks afterwards forwarded by shocked local officers to well-known lawyers and activists.
Efforts to cover up the killing which has raised deeply disturbing questions about police corruption
This followed an attempt to cover up the killing after the body was moved to a local hospital and a death certificate issued the following day by the local Sawanpracharak Hospital which was later retracted and corrected.
It initially listed the cause of death as ‘possible toxicity of amphetamine.’
The case has severely damaged the image and reputation of the Royal Thai Police.
Police Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon was a leading member of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau operating in a province where questions have been raised in the past within Thailand’s parliament about suspected collusion between senior police officers and the drug mafia gangs acting from within the Golden triangle.
Top-level probe ordered by the police chief in February into allegations of collusion between officers and drug dealers in Nakhon Sawan
In February this year, General Suwat ordered a top-level probe into claims aired by MPs in the Thai parliament during a government censure motion suggesting that a Lieutenant General of the Royal Thai Police and a Police Colonel in Nakhon Sawan were involved in the importation of 1.5 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine in October 2019.
Golden Triangle drugs threat aired in parliament, claims of senior police officers being involved in trafficking
The House of Representatives heard that some police officers in the province were working with leading drug cartels operating from the Golden Triangle, the notorious drug production zone on Thailand’s borders with Myanmar and Laos.
Former high flying police officer ready to vigorously defend the charges levelled against him in court
It is understood that Police Colonel Thitisan still vehemently denies the allegations made against him and his family has signalled that he will mount a strong legal defence.
They are also reported to be raising funds to seek bail for the 30-year-old.
He has already accepted that he was the figure in the video clip and admitted that he was attempting to torture the drug suspect as part of an operation to counter the distribution of illegal drugs in Nakhon Sawan.
There is also some speculation that the former high flying police officer may raise a defence on the grounds of diminished mental health and lack of intention to kill the 24-year-old drug suspect.
In the immediate aftermath of the murder, Police Colonel Thitisan had even befriended the victim’s father who issued a public statement upholding the policeman’s innocence and giving consent to a swift cremation of his son’s body.
Mr Jeerapong’s father later retracted his statement after being shown the shocking video clearly showing the torture and what prosecutors will soon present to a court as the murder of his son.