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Where’s the money? Phuket police search official’s house

Police Crime Suppression officers yesterday made a thorough search of a house belonging to one of the four men who surrendered this morning to police to answer charges of involvement in taxi mafia activities in Karon.

Carrying a search warrant from the court the officers, led by Pol Maj Gen Paween Pongsirin, Commander of the General Staff Division, Provincial Police Region 8, who is heading up the taxi investigation, escorted Wanchai Saetan to a two-bedroom house he owns in Suthat Soi 2, Phuket Town, close to the Phuket Provincial Prison.

mafia phuketWanchai is the head of the planning department at Karon Municipality. Police have already stated that they have found B128 million in bank accounts belonging to him.

Also at the house was Wanchai’s lawyer, Chaiyod “Tui” Panyawai, who was elected in March as Phuket’s representative of the Senate. With the Senate suspended by the Army, he has returned to legal work.

Police were looking for evidence of more money, but the house seemed an unlikely to place to find it. There was no sign that Wanchai lived there.

Downstairs open shelves were packed with clothing, bedding and bric-a-brac. Upstairs one of the bedrooms appeared to be occupied by a girl student and the other by a woman who looks after the house. Women’s clothing was scattered around the messy living room.

Sweating heavily, Wanchai was asked, “Do you have any bank account books?” He replied, “Yes. I have made copies. I will give them to the police later.” The investigators told him they would like to see the originals, not copies.

Gen Paween told The Phuket News, “Today, we had time to ask the Provincial Court only for a search warrant for Wanchai’s house. We will get warrants for the other three in the next couple of days.”

The search turned up nothing very useful to the case but Gen Paween said, “I am not worried about what we didn’t find in this house. We have all the evidence we need to show his involvement [in taxi crimes].

All four men – Wanchai, the two deputy mayors of Karon, Itthipon Sangkeaw and Sompong Kapphet, and the town clerk (palad), Veerasak Anek-andsawat are staying tonight as guests of the police, who have denied them bail.

That may change if the Provincial Court releases them but Gen Paween said he is not worried about attempts to tamper with evidence.

“I’m not concerned about them concealing their property or money. [Investigators from] the Anti-Money Laundering Office will be arriving soon. I believe more evidence against [Wanchai] remains to be discovered.”

Looking further ahead, he said, “The next place we focus on will depend on the evidence we get. Now, my team is working on Cherng Talay, Thalang and Kata-Karon.

“Other places such as Patong and Phuket International Airport will be investigated when we get the order from the Commissioner [Pol Lt Gen Panya Mamen, Commissioner of Police Region 8 ].”

“I want to thank my team for the great job they are doing, and the media for their coverage of the news. I want to see Phuket improve, especially its public transportation, for residents and tourist alike.”

Video by Phuket News TV of the surrender of the four politicians and the search of Wanchai’s house may be seen here.

Phuket News

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