Marine police have located three pirate oil smuggling vessels that escaped from Sattahip Marine Police Pier last week. The spotlight is now on smuggling kingpin Joe Pattani, whose influence spans Thailand and Cambodia, amid claims of high-level corruption.

Reports on Sunday night suggest that the three pirate oil smuggling vessels that escaped from Sattahip Marine Police Pier in Chonburi had been located. In addition, it was reported that a Marine Police Division patrol had intercepted the fleet and was bringing it back to Songkhla. The daring escape of the three pirate vessels has, in addition, thrown the spotlight on corruption, particularly the racket of one Joe Pattani, who is said to wield influence in both Thailand and Cambodia. On Saturday, sources suggested that the oil smuggling racket extends to senior police officers as well as officials in key ministries of government. Indeed, the racket has been prospering since 2014.

Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) Deputy Chief General Jaroonkiat Pankaew is investigating the escape from custody of three smuggling vessels last weekend. There were reports on Saturday and Sunday that they have been located off the southern part of the Gulf of Thailand. This was near Malaysian waters. The story has led to calls for a full probe into the smuggling racket of southern smuggling tycoon Joe Pattani, with reports of high level corruption both in Thailand and Cambodia. (Source: Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) and Marine Police Division)

Reports on Sunday night suggested that the three pirate oil smuggling vessels that escaped from Sattahip Marine Police Pier last week have been located.

Reports emerged separately from the Marine Police Division and the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) under Police Major General Jaroonkiat Pankaew, who is currently investigating a plot to allow the vessels to escape.

Missing vessels expected to be brought into Songkhla on Monday after being located off the Gulf of Thailand having been in Cambodian and Vietnamese waters

On Sunday night, it was reported that the JP, Sea Horse, and Daorung were hovering off the southern tip of the Gulf of Thailand. 

At length, they had already entered international waters, including Cambodian and Vietnamese seas. However, the vessels then doubled back towards Thailand. In short, the plan was to lay low as the heat died down.

Nevertheless, that has proved impossible. Public interest concerning the activities of the original five vessels seized in March has been pricked. This was boosted in the short term by concern on Saturday, June 15 over an oil slick in Pattaya. In short, it has ignited strong interest in the story.

Unquestionably, this story is linked to a man called Joe Pattani. He is the owner of all five vessels originally seized. The southern smuggler has been active since 2014 and has extensive political connections. 

Connections of smuggling boss thought to include two police generals and a string of officials at key government ministries as well as Cambodian officials

This includes two senior policemen at the rank of general as well as civil servants in key government departments. These allegedly include the Interior, Commerce, Justice, and even Finance ministries.

On Sunday, some reports suggested that Marine Police patrol had already intercepted the three pirate boats offshore. Certainly, it is expected that they may appear in Songkhla on Monday, 17th June.

Pattaya fears massive oil slick may be linked to escaped pirate vessels with 330,000 litres aboard

Meanwhile, reports are emerging of a broken fuel dispenser at Sattahip Marine Police Pier. This came following enquiries about pipes and oil containers seen at the facility. Officials working at the base suggested that officers had to manually transfer oil to vessels setting off to sea.

Probe launched last week by the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) saw top Marine Police officers shifted as a plot was unearthed to let the vessels escape

A widening investigation is underway by the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) into the disappearance of the three vessels. These were previously fishing trawlers which have been specially adapted for transporting oil. 

The value of the vessels on Sunday, according to Marine Police pursuing the missing craft, was ฿5 million each. 

Officers engaged in the hunt explained the combined value of the 330,000 litres of diesel oil aboard the three vessels. This came following reports that their primary purpose was to offload their contraband cargo.

In brief, this had a market value when landed of only ฿3 million. That is ฿10 to ฿12 per litre in the smuggling market.

Previously on Saturday, Police Major General Jaroonkiat signed an order excusing a senior Marine Police officer from a transfer to an inactive post.

The officer was previously subject to an order signed by Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) chief General Jiraphat Phuridet.

Senior officer cleared as he was in the United States

The exculpated officer was named as Police Lieutenant Colonel Ajin Wangwattana, Deputy Superintendent of the Marine Police Division. Certainly, it was confirmed he was away on a mission in the United States when escape efforts in respect of the smuggling vessels were launched.

Police working on the case have stressed that these officers have been sidelined to allow a more effective investigation. Prosecutions for dereliction of duty are expected against more junior officers.

At this time, it has been confirmed that a plot unfolded after Sunday, June 9th. This was the last time the five seized craft were seen moored 100 metres offshore at Sattahip Marine Police Pier.

Reports that the 18 smuggling crew members set out to mislead marine police while stocking up on provisions before their break for freedom last weekend

Before this, sources suggest that 18 crew members had been seen stocking up on bottled water and noodles. In addition, the crew members had feigned both drunkenness and indifference to fool marine police officers.

Furthermore, sailors on the smuggling vessels were capable of navigating the waters offshore without satellite GPS.

In short, these systems were removed from the boats in March. This was achieved by using compasses and their own extensive experience.

However, if the ships are re-arrested and brought to Songkhla on Monday, questions are to be asked. In particular about the greater scheme of corruption linked to this pirate fleet.

Undoubtedly, there are reports of political influence and key figures not only in Thailand but also in Cambodia.

One source compares this racket to the influence of Chinese grey capital revealed by whistleblower Chuwit Kamolvisit in 2023.

Undoubtedly, police will be encouraged to act against the mysterious figure of Joe Pattani in addition to the junior marine policemen implicated in the audacious escape plot unleashed last week.

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