This is the second death sentence handed down to the notorious former Deputy Minister of Commerce, Banyin Tangpakorn, a former police officer and criminal mastermind, who has also been convicted of murdering a businessman in 2015 and covering up the act in a staged car accident, forgery, fraud and trying to engineer an audacious prison escape in June 2020. Police also looked at the death of his wife in 1991 in another, strikingly similar, car accident.
The Court of Appeal, in Bangkok, imposed a death sentence on a former minister and senior police officer, on Friday for the February 2020 abduction and murder of the 67-year-old brother of a judge of the Bangkok South Criminal Court overseeing fraud and forgery charges against the defendant. An earlier court had imposed a term of life imprisonment based on a full confession to the crime by former Deputy Minister of Commerce Banyin Tangpakorn but the sister of the victim filed a petition to the court arguing successfully that the death sentence should not have been commuted.
The Court of Appeal, in Bangkok, on Friday imposed the death sentence on a former government deputy minister, policeman and MP from Nakhon Sawan province, 58-year-old Banyin Tangpakorn, after a petition was filed by a judge against a verdict and sentence handed down in December 2020 imposing a term of life imprisonment on him for the abduction and murder of Veerachai Sakunprasert after he was forcefully taken by men, some disguised as police, from the precincts of the Bangkok South Criminal Court on February 4th 2020.
The Judge’s petition led to the death sentence being imposed on the former minister as well as another defendant and henchmen of Mr Banyin, the key architect of the criminal scheme, 48-year-old Narongsak Pomchan.
Two sentenced to death including the former minister and all others who took part in the kidnap and killing of a judge’s brother in 2020 received life
Four other defendants in the case who took part or were linked to the abduction and murder of Mr Veerachai were sentenced to life imprisonment.
The judge who appealed the original sentences was Panida Sakunprasert, the younger sister of the victim in the case who, at the time of the kidnap, was adjudicating on another case involving the renegade former minister and a senior policeman who has since been linked with a series of egregious crimes going back to 1991 and a suspicion, looked into by police, that he may have murdered his former wife and covered it up as a traffic accident.
Judge Panida had been reviewing fraud charges against the former minister who was involved in 2015 in what appeared to be a freak traffic accident where a billionaire contractor and property tycoon, 50-year-old Chuwong Sae Tang, was killed in a car driven by Mr Banyin in the Suan Luang district, Bangkok.
In January 2021, Mr Banyin was also handed down a death sentence for the premeditated murder of the businessman in that case.
Elected as an MP three times, served as Deputy Minister of Commerce in two 2008 governments
Mr Banyin was elected as an MP for Nakhon Sawan on two occasions, in 2008 with the People’s Power Party and later with the Pheu Thai Party, when he served as Deputy Minister of Commerce in the short-lived governments of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat that year.
He was also a list party MP for the Matchima Party in 2000.
In 1991, a similar car accident also accounted for the death of the wife of the former minister, killed while travelling as a passenger in a car driven by him.
At the time, Police Lieutenant Colonel Banyin was a senior officer in the Bangkok Traffic Police Division holding the rank of Inspector.
Investigating officers from 2015 to 2018, as they investigated Mr Chuwong’s death, also closely examined the death of the spouse of their main suspect in the uncannily similar incident, 24 years earlier.
Police troubled in 2015 car accident death involving the ex-minister and a billionaire businessman as his injuries were not consistent with the facts
In the 2015 case which saw Banyin convicted of murder, police initially investigating the death were troubled after they discovered that the accident occurred while the vehicle was travelling at only 30 km per hour and that the deceased man showed signs of injuries inconsistent with such a car accident such as broken ribs and ligature marks on his neck.
Police were also puzzled that the accident took place two hours after Mr Chuwong and Mr Banyin had left the golf course in the car to travel to Mr Chuwong’s home, only 20 km away
After the accident, the former minister told close friends that Mr Chuwong was simply unfortunate, in that he had failed to wear a safety belt while riding in the car.
However, the Criminal Court, in January 2021 ruled that the accident was staged and was, in fact, a cover-up for a foul and premeditated murder.
It took three years for Banyin to be charged with the murder but the strong case against him led to his conviction.
Mr Chuwong, a billionaire tycoon, had earlier transferred ฿256 million in shares including a large amount to a golf caddie. His family suspected fraud
Investigations, in that case, showed that Mr Chuwong had earlier transferred ฿28 million worth of shares to a brokerage controlled by the former minister and that a far larger transaction of ฿228 million had seen shares mysteriously transferred to a golf caddie working at the golf resort.
These transactions had taken place just ten days before the death of Mr Chuwong and his family called in the police after suspicion was raised that the share transfers were fraudulent and that the documents used to carry them out were forgeries.
This was the case being reviewed by Justice Panida Sakunprasert on February 4th 2020, the day her brother was taken.
Earlier, she had started to receive menacing calls and messages ordering her to dismiss the case.
In February 2020, the ex-minister donned a fake policeman’s uniform and took part in the abduction of the judge’s older brother who was later murdered
On that day, the minister was actively involved in the operation to kidnap the victim including posing as a policeman in uniform while the brother of the judge was abducted as he waited to pick up his sister from work.
The was an arrangement put in place between the judge and her brother as she feared for her safety while working on the case.
Mr Veercahai, who was 67 years old, is understood to have been taken to Nakhon Sawan where he was abused and tortured while pressure was brought to bear on his sister, the judge, who resisted and called in the appropriate authorities.
His body was later found by police in a local river in the central province and a huge military operation was launched to arrest Mr Banyin and his accomplices on February 23rd 2020 when 21 locations were raided by armed police and elite paramilitary units on the same day.
Found guilty of fraud and given 8 years, then charged with masterminding a prison break in June 2020
Banyin was later found guilty of fraud and forgery on the matter before Bangkok South Criminal Court by Judge Panida and handed down an 8-year prison term.
Even from within prison, however, the former minister’s criminal exploits did not stop.
In June 2020, just before appearing in court on the 22nd of the month, it emerged that Mr Banyin was being investigated for trying to engineer a prison escape to be executed while being transported to court.
This resulted in him being transferred from Bangkok Remand Prison where he had earlier demanded more comfortable and private facilities, to the more secure and notorious Bang Kwang Prison by prison authorities after a plot was foiled to kidnap the wife of the governor of the remand prison.
The plan was to hold her ransom in return for allowing Mr Banyin to escape while being transported to the Criminal Court from the prison in the Chatuchak area of Bangkok.
After the prison breakout was unearthed, the former minister is reported to have attempted suicide in prison by hanging himself.
Former minister, at the centre of jailbreak reports, appears in court in Bangkok under tight security
The planned escapade came to light the week before his prison appearance on June 22nd and involved the cooperation of a prisoner who had earlier been released from the facility where he had befriended Mr Banyin behind bars.