Alert and assiduous Immigration Bureau officer at Bang Khen Immigration Bureau Detention Centre in Bangkok foiled efforts by a senior serving police officer and another man connected with the plot to gain access to the British national being held after his arrest and pending his extradition on foot of an Interpol notice.
Thailand’s most popular policeman Big Joke or Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn found himself at the centre of a criminal conspiracy this week as he briefed reporters on a failed attempt by two men using his name to secure the release of a young British man detained by the Immigration Bureau in Phuket after being wanted to face justice under an Interpol arrest warrant.
Four other suspected accomplices relating to a ฿6 million payment made by a woman to obtain the release, on bail, of a UK man being detained at Bang Khen Immigration Detention Centre are to report to police next Monday after the main suspect in the case met with investigators at Pak Klongsan Police Station.
It is reported that Police Colonel Ramet Kaewsungnoen, a superintendent serving with Mae Hong Son Provincial Police, has already met with investigators and has been granted bail after reporting to police on his own accord.
Police press charges of conspiracy to commit fraud against 5 people after reviewing the case on Monday
On Monday, it is reported that officers at the police station in Bangkok decided to press charges of conspiracy to commit fraud against 5 people involved after reviewing the evidence in the case.
The matter came to light when a Thai woman named Ms Thirawan Khiewngam who had been working to secure the release of the British man from Immigration Bureau detention found that those she had paid money on the basis of securing the release of the detained man had failed to pursue the matter after the monies were paid over and began avoiding her phone calls.
It is understood that those involved falsely used the name of high-profile police officer, Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn, to convince the woman that they could secure the release of the UK national from the custody of the Immigration Bureau.
Identity of UK man not revealed, he was arrested on foot of an Interpol warrant on drug charges
Police have not revealed the identity of the detained man at this time but it is understood that he is a young UK national who was detained by the Immigration Bureau in the Rawai Beach area of Phuket on foot of an Interpol arrest warrant and that he is wanted in the United Kingdom in relation to drug charges.
The man is being held at the Bang Khen detention facility operated by the Immigration Bureau which has the power to detain foreign nationals in Thailand pending their formal extradition to other countries or deportation.
In reporting the case to the officers at Pak Klongsan Police Station, Ms Thirawan explained that when efforts to secure the release on bail of the UK national being held were unsuccessful, she approached Mr Thanawat Thanthanpan.
He told her that he knew 67-year-old Witthaya Somsrisomsakul whose friend, Police Colonel Ramet was known to the Assistant National Police Chief and former Immigration Bureau boss, Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn, also known popularly in Thailand as ‘Big Joke’ because the two had attended police academy together.
Woman told that officer with connections to Assistant Chief Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn could secure bail or temporary release for UK man
Mr Thanawat had reportedly assured the woman that the influence of the ‘Big Joke’ could swing the temporary release of her friend from custody.
She was told that to secure the cooperation of Mr Withaya and Police Colonel Ramet, she would have to pay a fee of ฿6 million.
On Tuesday, the Assistant Police Chief, Police Lieutenant General Surachate himself briefed reporters on the case.
He explained the full facts of what is known to have transpired and the circumstances to reporters.
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It is not unknown in Thailand for the names of senior police or indeed military officers to be used in such a context or even for impersonation to occur.
Big Joke, Thailand’s favourite policeman who was removed from active police duty for nearly two years
The top cop is famous in Thailand for his role as crime buster and also his eventful career as Immigration Bureau boss during which he moved decisively to modernise and shake up the country’s immigration police service until he was removed mysteriously in April 2019 and seconded to the Prime Minister’s Office.
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Police Lieutenant General Surachate returned to active police duty, in a roving role as Assistant Police Chief, in March 2021.
As before, he has been involved in high-profile cases dealing with the smashing of underage sex rings, human trafficking networks, call centre gangs while also being a key adviser to the government and authorities on safety and better policing to protect foreign tourists.
Big Joke is both a respected and much-loved figure among the Thai public and is also highly thought of by most foreigners in Thailand because of his commitment to fighting corruption, particularly against foreign visitors or residents.
Two of the men involved in the case had tried to gain access to the UK man at Bang Khen Immigration Bureau Detention Centre on June 29th but were foiled
On Tuesday, Police Lieutenant General Surachate revealed that the two men involved in the case, Mr Thanawat and Mr Withaya, had visited Bang Khen Detention Centre in Bangkok on June 29th last and asked to speak with the British man being held there, privately.
An officer on duty at the facility, however, refused them access at which point he was put on the phone to Police Colonel Ramet who told the Immigration Bureau official that the British man had occasionally operated as a police informant and that his colleagues should be allowed access to his cell.
On Tuesday, Police Lieutenant General Surachate also confirmed that the senior serving police officer had used his name in connection with the request.
Again, the officer on duty refused the request citing strict regulations and referred Police Colonel Ramet to his superiors to gain access to the detained man. The two visitors withdrew.
Money transferred by Ms Thirawan to secure the temporary release of the fugitive from custody
At that point, Ms Thirawan was informed by Mr Thanawat that Mr Withaya would require the ฿6 million sent to a specified account so that efforts to secure the release of the detained man could proceed further.
The money was transferred as requested.
These funds have been the subject in the last week of police enquiries as they were traced to newly created third-party accounts which eventually were funnelled into accounts controlled by Police Colonel Ramet and Mr Withaya.
After the money was transferred, Ms Thiwaran found that efforts to secure bail for her UK friend became inactive while she also had difficulty in reaching Mr Withaya by phone.
Four others charged and to meet with police
In addition to Police Colonel Ramet, the other four charged include Mr Withaya and three other individuals, 43-year-old Apirak Thiengtham, 35-year-old Natnaree Boonma and 26-year-old Thipsuda Insongjai.
All are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud although other charges may later be pressed.
Police have revealed that the three other charged, as well as Police Colonel Tamet and Mr Withaya, were involved in setting up the bank accounts which were used for channelling the money to the accounts controlled by the two men who received the payment from Ms Thirawan.