BANGKOK, THAILAND — Thai police has charged 15 officials with corruption on Monday (16 Jan) after two Chinese suspects walked free from a raid on a passport-forging den.
The case comes as concerns in Thailand grow over so-called “grey businesses” — illegal operations run by Chinese nationals, AFP reported.
In early December 2022, Thai Police raided the former consulate of the Pacific island Nauru in Sathon district, Bangkok, following allegations that Chinese citizens were squatting there.
Inside, officers found two Chinese men – both wanted by Beijing – forging passports for fellow nationals, Deputy National Police Chief Surachet Hakpal said.
But the two managed to escape, he told reporters, with the collusion of five officials from the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) as well as nine police officers and a military sergeant.
The officials, along with a translator, extracted a 10 million baht (US$245,000) bribe from the suspects for their help, Surachet said.
The scheme came to light, Surachet said, when the translator confessed after being caught attempting to flee to Malaysia, and a lost hard disk containing the original evidence was discovered.
Official reports said around 2.5 million baht was seized during the raid, but footage found on the hard disk and corroborated by the translator showed around eight million baht had been discovered.
“They told the Chinese that it was not enough and asked for four million more baht,” Surachet told a press conference.
All 16 men were charged with corruption, or asking for a bribe, and the 15 officials — excluding the translator — were charged with abuse of power.
The military sergeant was also charged with attempting to destroy evidence after the hard drive containing images of the raid was discovered at his home.
The officials and officers have denied all charges.
“Asking for a bribe carries quite a severe penalty, the maximum is death,” Surachet said.
“We will further investigate whether or not the raid was approved by their superior,” he added.
Police in operation accused for released all suspects in exchange for 20 million baht
According to Bangkok Post’s report late last month, Thai’s DSI said the crackdown operation on the home of the former consulate of Pacific island Nauru was jointly conducted by three DSI police officers and ten others from the 191 Patrol and Special Operation Division.
The crackdown stemmed from a letter submitted by the deputy consul-general of the Pacific island Nauru in Thailand to the DSI’s director-general on 9 December.
The deputy consul-general believed that a residence outside the consulate’s premises, suspected to be rented by its consul-general, may have been involved with illegal activities and was sheltering certain Chinese people.
The letter said these Chinese had been seen entering and exiting the premises throughout the day, and asked for police’s help for an inspection of the residence.
Atchariya Reuangrattanapong, chairman of the Help Crime Victims Club, had accused that some irregularities were involved in the operation.
Mr Atchariya said police caught 12 Chinese suspects at the site, one of whom was wanted on Interpol’s Red Notice list and who had escaped from a raid at Jinling Pub on Charoen Rat Road on Oct 26.
However, some reports alleged that the police team in the operation later released all suspects in exchange for 20 million baht.
A 36-year-old Chinese woman, identified as Xiang Yang, was the only suspect presented at Thung Mahamek police for interrogation with seized items worth 2.5 million baht, despite the fact that seized items captured in the picture looked to be worth more than 10 million baht.
On 14 December last year, DSI’s director-general ordered an investigation into the matter.