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Supreme Court reverses death sentence for two convicts in murder of Aussie auditor in 1999

The Supreme Court today reversed the death sentences for two convicts and upheld life sentence for another for their involvement in the 1999 murder of Australian auditor Michael Wansley in Nakhon Sawan province.

Earlier in 2006, the Appeals Court upheld the death sentence for two convicts, Somchoke Suthiwiriwan and Sompong Buasakul ruled by the first court.

At today’s hearing of the Supreme Court’s final judgement of their appeals, the court reversed the death sentence for Somchoke and Sompong after their appeals has ground to listen to.

It then handed down life sentence for both of them.

But for the first defendant, Boonpan Suthiwiriwan, the court upheld his life sentence handed by the appeals Court.

All were former executives of Kasetthai sugar mill in Nakhon Sawan.

The three and the sugar mill owner, Pradit Siriviriyakul, were charged for masterminding the murder of 58-year-old Wansley. He was shot dead on March 10, 1999, while on his way to audit the books of the sugar mill in Nakhon Sawan.

Only the owner Pradit Siriviriyakul was acquitted after the first court gave him the benefit of doubt.

According to the indictment filed with the court in 2006, Pradit hired Boonpan, Somchoke, Sompong and hit man Somchai Jaihao to kill Wansley because he had uncovered financial irregularities in the business, which was in the process of debt restructuring. Somchai has been tried and given a life sentence by Nakhon Sawan Court.

On September 5, 2006, the lower court sentenced Boonpan to life, condemned Somchoke and Sompong to death and acquitted Pradit. The public prosecutor and co-plaintiffs then submitted an appeal to get Pradit punished while the three other defendants appealed for acquittal.

The Appeals Court was told Boonpan arranged for a motorcycle and a gun, while Somchoke and Sompong helped the alleged gunmen Somchai and Pichet Khaewsamduang (who was acquitted by a lower court in a separate trial) in fleeing to Bangkok. The Appeals Court upheld the lower-court rulings handing down a life sentence to Boonpan and death sentences to the other two men.

Finding weakness in evidence against Pradit, the Appeals Court upheld his acquittal by the lower court on benefit of doubt.

Thai PBS

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