In an escalation of legal woes, Senator Upakit suffers a barrage of asset seizures, totalling ฿691 million. Amidst claims of innocence and legal immunity, officials conducted a detailed search at his Bangkok residence on Thursday. 

Further assets of a sitting Thai senator were seized on Thursday by the Secretary-General of the Narcotics Control Board (NCB) to the value of ฿409 million following a recent seizure of ฿282 million. The centre of these seizures on Thursday was at the residence of Senator Upakit Pachariyangkun in Bangkok where officials distinguished between inherited wealth and potential seizure targets that may be linked to crime. It comes as the sitting senator continues to vehemently insist on his innocence of any potential criminal charges while also maintaining that he holds legal immunity from prosecution.

Senator Upakit Pachariyangkun at his residence in Bangkok on November 30th, 2023, during an asset seizure operation led by Police Lieutenant General Panurat Lakboon of the Narcotics Control Board (NCB). (Inset left) Rangsiman Rome, addressing the House of Representatives this year, where he raised the issue.

In a significant move against high-level potential drug-related activities, the Narcotics Control Board (NCB) executed a thorough search of Senator Upakit’s residence on November 30, 2023.

The operation was led by Police Lieutenant General Panurat Lakboon, the Assistant Police Commander and Acting Secretary-General of the NCB. This is linked to a probe into the senator’s alleged involvement in a drug network with ties to big business in Myanmar and international drug trafficking.

The morning raid, conducted opposite Chomsudaram Temple in the Nakhon Chai Si Road Sub District of Dusit District in Bangkok, saw the confiscation of assets totalling a staggering ฿409 million belonging to the senator. 

Luxury cars and valuable possessions seized in Bangkok while Senator Upakit offered full cooperation to the anti-narcotics agency 

These assets included land, luxury cars, including a Bentley, and various possessions suspected of possibly being linked to drug-related activities. Senator Upakit continues to maintain his innocence despite the high-profile arrest of his son-in-law in a controversial series of police raids in 2022.

The NCB’s decision to freeze assets and initiate the search was based on several orders issued since November 17th, targeting bank accounts, and later, on November 21st, concerning land.

The most recent order, dated November 29th, authorised the temporary seizure and freezing of assets for investigation. The assets, as claimed by Senator Upakit, had been documented with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) as part of his duties as a member of Thailand’s upper house which he was appointed to in 2019.

Police Lieutenant General Panurat explained that the search was conducted under the Narcotics Code, Section 68, paragraph two, and Section 78.

The NCB Secretary-General emphasised that the senator’s cooperation was essential and highlighted the authority granted to him to order asset seizure and attachment under the given circumstances.

Officials of the Narcotics Control Board (NCB) acted after receiving a letter suggesting the sitting Senator may face criminal charges in due course

The catalyst for this action was a letter to the anti-corruption agency suggesting that Senator Upakit may be facing charges of conspiracy and support related to drug offences, sent to the agency on November 2nd. 

In response, the investigating officer, having received a letter confirming the potential drug related charges, triggered the need for asset identification and seizure. 

Senator Upakit provided an account of his assets to the NCB, which guided the authorities in distinguishing between inherited properties and those which may be potentially linked to drug-related activities.

Notably, the NCB Secretary-General shed light on various assets seized, including cars, watches, guns, and properties across Bangkok, Rayong, and Nakhon Pathom.

The seized assets, with an estimated value of ฿409 million, were subjected to temporary confiscation for further investigation.

Controversial Senator was the target of a Metropolitan Police Bureau police operation which arrested a former business associate and son-in-law in 2022

Senator Upakit, referred to as ‘Senator Song A’ in 2022, is no stranger to controversy. The NCB had previously seized his assets twice, with the most recent seizure involving 29 plots of land valued at over ฿282 million. This seizure was attributed to the senator’s alleged connection to drug trafficking in Burma.

This cryptic reference was a name attributed to the Thai senator in 2022 when the Royal Thai Police Association came out to support a senior officer who applied for and was granted a warrant for the arrest of the senator following the series of shocking raids in Bangkok and other arrests which saw Dr Tun Min Latt, a leading businessman in Myanmar and close to the family of Burma’s junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing detained and later charged.

Dr Tun Mi Latt is a former business associate of Senator Upakit although the senator insists their business dealings ended before he became a senator in 2019.

The raids were a response to former Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan Ocha who at that time urged police and drug suppression agencies to target bigger fish in the drug distribution cartels devastating Thai society.

Following the 2022 raids, up to ฿200 million in assets were seized by police.

Police officer moved off case and faced disciplinary action after he sought and obtained a warrant allegedly against Senator Upakit which was revoked

The officer who led the breakthrough September 2022 police raids, Police Lieutenant Colonel Manapong Wongpiwat of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, was subsequently transferred from the case along with his team and faced internal disciplinary action after a warrant was granted by the Criminal Court on October the 3rd 2022 but was subsequently revoked by higher authorities, sparking a clash between investigators and key court officials.

This later led to defamation proceedings being served on House of Representatives firebrand MP Rangsiman Rome after he raised the controversy in parliament while a new police team and prosecutors with the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) have subsequently moved forward against Senator Upakit by summons and discussions with the case slowly progressing as the upper house member has claimed privilege while also suggesting that his legitimate activities have been unfairly mixed up with criminal behaviour of other parties

฿200 million in assets seized and frozen after police raids in Bangkok in September linked with Myanmar’s Tun Min Latt and senator’s son-on-law
Attorney General to have the final say on prosecution in court for money laundering of Senator Upakit

Also charged and arrested in the September 2022 raids was the American son-in-law of Senator Upakit, 38-year-old Mr Dean Young Gultula, the husband of the senator’s daughter Adisara.

Police and prosecutors have pursued a case against him for money laundering and allegations of transnational crime which he has fought doggedly

In the ongoing saga, Senator Upakit has faced allegations of money laundering and involvement in a transnational criminal organisation. 

Despite the case being progressed for prosecution, the senator has invoked constitutional privileges, leading to multiple delays in the legal proceedings. The NCB’s latest action underscores the persistence of the investigation.

Senator Upakit, whose political journey involved being appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and accusations of affiliation with major Burmese businessman and alleged drug dealer Dr Tun Min Latt, has filed defamation lawsuits against prominent figures.

These include MP Rangsiman Rome, hosts of the TV programme ‘Inside Thailand,’ and Atchariya Ruangrattanaphong, the president of the Crime Victims Assistance Club.

At one point, in the runup to the May 14th General Election in Thailand, the United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) Party attacked Mr Rangsiman Rome for highlighting that the party’s headquarters was situated at a property in Bangkok’s Soi area owned by the embattled senator.

Story highlights the complex nature of Thailand’s upper echelons but also the determination of some police officers and prosecutors to pursue a case

The case has brought attention to the complexities of justice processes in Thailand’s legal system, with allegations of attempts to revoke arrest warrants and pressure on legal proceedings. The involvement of high-ranking executives and transfers of police officers have raised questions about the impartiality of the investigation.

At the same time, investigators remain steadfast in their pursuit of justice, while a staunch legal defence initiated by Senator Upakit underscores the challenges facing prosecutors where there is a political dynamic or where the subject of the investigation has extensive legitimate business interests.

The upper house member claims to be an innocent party being unfairly targeted for his past business associations.

Legal proceedings against Senator Upakit are due before the court in the coming months stemming from a decision by prosecutors in May this year to proceed against the upper house member although the matter is still being considered carefully by the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG).

The senator still, however, as well as protesting his innocence and clarifying his position, strongly asserts that he retains immunity from prosecution under Thai law with an October 9th debate and vote of the Senate specifically upholding his status in a vote where 174 senators voted to 7 in opposition, to underline it.

The evolving narrative emphasises the importance of transparency, accountability, and the need for effective measures to combat corruption and criminal networks in Thailand while also upholding the individual’s right to due process in a country where respect for authority and politeness are laudable hallmark attributes.

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Further reading:

Attorney General to have final say on prosecution in court for money laundering of Senator Upakit

Senator Upakit met Narcotics Bureau investigators pursuing money laundering enquiries against him

Police chief orders probe into police officers who sought a rescinded arrest warrant for a sitting senator

PM’s party lashes out at MP Rangsiman Rome’s ‘irresponsible’ revelations in parliament last week

Corruption and the role of the unelected Senate in electing the next PM to be General Election issues

Shock police probe into drug dealing and money laundering linked with Myanmar to strain ties