The court heard testimony that the Chinese actress and a friend were told they would face arrest and detention for up to three days because they did not carry their original passports with them when stopped by the police.
A court in Bangkok, on Thursday, jailed four police officers for five years each after finding them guilty of accepting a bribe from Taiwanese actress Charlene An at the end of January this year following a checkpoint stop. All the policemen were serving officers at Huai Khwang Police Station. The court acquitted two of the officers before it, based on the distance they were standing from where the bribe payment was agreed upon and paid over by the actress’s Singaporean boyfriend.
On Tuesday, November 8th, the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct handed down a guilty verdict against four police officers who formerly served at Huai Khwang Police Station and were involved in a controversial checkpoint on the night of January 4th 2023, into the early hours of the January 5th 2023 when a famous Taiwanese actress, Charlene An or An Yu Qing, as she is known to her Hong Kong fans, was stopped at a Metropolitan Police checkpoint near the Thai Embassy in Bangkok.
In all, six police officers appeared before the court, which took seven months to render its verdict after numerous hearings on Tuesday when it acquitted two officers but sentenced four to the highest possible penalty of five years imprisonment.
Investigation led to the arrest of six police officers serving at Huai Khwang Police Station and charges being brought against them in January this year
Senior officers with the Metropolitan Police Bureau had authorised a thorough investigation into the scandal, which caused media headlines in Thailand and across the Chinese-speaking world where Ms Charlene Ann is well known.
The incident is one of the factors damaging Thailand’s tourism reputation in China, which has impacted the foreign tourism economy.
It occurred on the night of January 4th and the morning of January 5th as Ms Charlene An and two friends returned to her hotel from a night out at a well-known Bangkok nightclub when they encountered the police checkpoint at a turn-off from the motorway.
The 32-year-old actress is well-known in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for her film roles.
The six officers before the court faced many charges under the Criminal Code Sections 83, 149 and 157, as well as offences under the Criminal Code Amendment Act 2018 and the Prevention and Suppression of Corruption Act 2018, Sections 172 and 173.
Checkpoint on motorway opposite the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok was set up on the night of January 4th, 2023. Passengers found with e-cigarettes
The six officers before the court were carrying out the checkpoint at which one of the officers identified the car as suspicious and ordered it to be searched.
During that search, which included the passengers on board, it was found that the three were carrying e-cigarettes in contravention of customs regulations.
It was also found that two passengers, including Ms Charlene An, did not have their original passports showing their legal entry into Thailand as required by law.
One passenger did have proper legal identification and the required proof. At the same time, the other two showed police photographs of their passports taken on their smartphones, which were rejected by the officers carrying out the checkpoint operation.
At length, it appeared that a conference ensued between four officers engaged with the party at the side of the road after the car had been searched in which it was agreed that a payment would be made by one of the passengers, a boyfriend of Ms Charlene An in the amount of ฿27,000.
The bribe or payment was understood to be ฿8,000 for each of the occupants possessing an e-cigarette with a charge of ฿3,000 concerning the failure to provide original passports.
2 passengers, including Ms Charlene, threatened with arrest and detention for up to 3 days as they failed to produce their original passport to police
Officers had informed the two foreigners that they would be detained for failing to produce an original passport for one to three days, even if the documents could be located at their hotels.
The court dismissed an attempt by the operational commander at the scene to evade criminal responsibility after he was asked to adjudicate on the settlement and let it up to his junior officers.
However, it did find that two of the police officers, the first who had waved down the car and the other who operated at a distance from the four officers involved with the stopped automobile, were not complicit in the wrongdoing that occurred when a payment to the police not to carry out official duties or a bribe was passed over.
Court handed down the maximum sentence possible to the four policemen found guilty under a 2018 anti-corruption law for demanding and accepting a bribe
The court handed down the most severe sentence provided for under Section 149 of the Act on the Prevention and Suppression of Corruption 2018.
A critical factor in securing the conviction against the four police officers was the testimony of Ms Charlene’s Singaporean boyfriend, who returned to Thailand at the invitation of social justice activist and former massage parlour tycoon Chuwit Kamolvisit at the end of January 2023.
The Singaporean gave recorded testimony to investigating officers on the case, securing Tuesday’s conviction and sentence against the four officers involved.
The court ordered the e-cigarettes and the ฿27,000 to be confiscated by the State after adjudicating two of the officers not guilty of the offence based on their distance from the negotiation between the passengers and the police, which led to the payment of ฿27,000.
Both officers acquitted on Tuesday were 30 to 35 metres from the incident scene.