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Joseph Manuel Hunter, 48, who served in the U.S Navy, was arrested in Phuket on Wednesday with five accomplices after an investigation by the US Drug Enforcement Agency. He has been described as one of South East Asia’s leading drug lords who led a big network of drug traffickers operating in Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines and Hong Kong according to police General Priewphan Damapong.
He was arrested at the Phuket Country Club when DEA agents pointed him out to the Thai police who swopped in and arrested him. Six suspects have been named on a U.S arrest warrant and are expected to be deported back to the States. The suspects are from the UK, Slovakia, the Philippines and Taiwan.
Although the Thai police claim that Hunter had been in the US Navy, a Navy spokeswoman told a UK newspaper that there was no record of him ever serving. However Thai deputy police Chief Somyot Pumpanmuang told reporters that all of the suspects, who were flown from Phuket on Thursday, had military training and were trained to kill. He said that the DEA contacted Thai authorities several months ago to say that Hunter was hiding in Phuket after arriving in Thailand from the Philippines on September 6th.
Bangkok U.S Embassy Spokesman Walter Braunhler said that he could not comment on the case and asked that any questions should be directed to Washington. On Friday Hunter was sent back to the US on a government chartered plane along with agents from the US Drug Enforcement Agency who were sent to escort him on the flight and five other suspects. The flight was bound for New York where an arrest warrant has been issued.