Police widen 'Mr X' drug trafficking probe

BANGKOK POST:

Police took 30 million baht in cash and another 20 million baht worth of homes, cars, gold and jewellery when they arrested the four suspects. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

Authorities have widened their probe into an international drug syndicate, arresting a Taiwanese, a Malaysian and two Thai women for alleged involvement in transnational drug trafficking connected with Lao drug kingpin suspect Xaysana Keopimpha.

The arrests were announced at the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) yesterday. The event was attended by ONCB secretary-general Sirinya Sitdhichai, Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) chief Sommai Kongwisaisuk and his deputy Suphakij Srichannont.

The suspects were identified as Hsu Cheng-Mi, a 69-year-old Taiwanese, Tun Hun Seong from Malaysia, and two Thai women — Wiparat Kandee, 50, and Walaipan Petpong, 65.

Mr Cheng and Ms Wiparat were arrested at a house in tambon Chang Phueak of Chiang Mai’s Muang district on Wednesday. On the same day, Mr Tun was apprehended at Hat Yai international airport in Songkhla while Ms Walaipan was arrested in a house in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district. They were all accused of colluding in drug offences.

The arrests took place as authorities conducted anti-drug raids at 58 locations in the North, the Central Plains and the South the same day.

The four drug-trafficking suspects detained in Chiang Mai and Hat Yai were brought to Bangkok on Thursday. From left, Tan Hun Seong, Cheng Mi Hsu, Walaipan Phetpong and Wiparant Kandee.(Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

According to officers, 36 lists of assets were seized from the four, including 30 million baht in cash, houses, cars, gold ornaments and jewellery, worth around 50 million baht in total.

The arrests resulted from the widening of a probe into two Malaysian drug suspects, apprehended in Songkhla’s Sadao district on March 29 last year for alleged possession of 282kg of crystal methamphetamine, or ya ice.

Authorities have so far seized around 70 million baht worth of assets from the six. Pol Lt Gen Sommai said the network is linked to Mr Xaysana, who was arrested at Suvarnabhumi airport on arrival from Phuket on Jan 19 this year.

Mr Xaysana, he said, is part of a global transnational crime organisation with finances in circulation of more than one billion baht, adding the money made from the drug trade has also been laundered in several countries. The syndicate transported ya ice to Malaysia via the Sadao border crossing, carrying 100-300kg of the drug each time, he said. A probe found that 2.4 million Taiwanese dollars from the network had been shifted to Thailand since 2011 and it is possible more money was brought here to be laundered, he said.

“One kilogramme of ya ice worth around one million baht in Thailand would be sold for five million baht when the drug was transported to Malaysia,” said Pol Lt Gen Sommai, adding the network was found to have funnelled money from the drug trade to invest in various kinds of business.

Up to 16 companies linked to the group did not pay tax, he said, adding their businesses range from hotels, entertainment venues and karaoke shops to loan sharks. “The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has been asked to help probe the issue,” said Pol Lt Gen Sommai.

The NSB chief said police may have to issue warrants for the arrest of around 1,000 people linked with this ya ice trafficking syndicate. He said Mr Xaysana is not a player in drug trafficking in the region, but the entire world, adding: “We cannot stop the flow of their money. We need to eradicate the network.”

Secretary General Sirinya Sitthichai of the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) details alleged area of the ‘Mr X’ drug trafficking operation of Lao suspect Xaysana Keopimpha. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Pol Maj Gen Suphakij said police have followed up on the case involving the network for more than a year. Chinese, Taiwanese and Malaysian authorities shared information with Thai police that the suspects were part of a transnational crime network, which carried drugs from Thailand’s northern border to the South, where the illicit substances were to be shifted to other countries, he said.

The key figures behind the group did not have a direct hand in drug trafficking, but would use the money earned from it to invest in businesses, he said.

Police will widen probes after 16 companies were found to be linked with the network, Pol Maj Gen Suphakij said.

Meanwhile, actress Napapa “Patt” Tantrakul turned up Thursday at the ONCB to give an account in relation to 1.9 million baht found in her bank account after her husband, Akarakit “Benz Racing” Worarojchroendet, was charged with money laundering and conspiracy in connection with Mr Xaysana’s drug network.

“I knew only my husband ran an auto parts shop, worked as a presenter and joined various business events,” Ms Napapa said later.

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