SAMUT SONGKHRAM — A construction tycoon was sentenced to a year in prison for bribery in a high-profile case involving the hunting of a protected black panther, a court ruled Tuesday morning.
The Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Case Region VII convicted Premchai Karnasuta, the CEO of Italian-Thai Development Company Limited, of attempting to bribe an official. His sentence does not come with parole.
“My leg hurts,” Premchai said while exiting the court at around 11:30am with a walking cane. He refused to comment further.
Tanong Tapa, the public prosecutor, said that Premchai would appeal his case and posted bail at 200,000 baht.
Another defendant Yong Doadkrua, an aide, was found not guilty.
Premchai’s case captured national attention on February 5, 2018 when the high-profile CEO and three aides were found surrounded by animal carcasses and guns in a protected wildlife sanctuary.
Head forest ranger Wichien Chinnawong of Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary led a raid to arrest Premchai and his aides – Yong, Premchai’s cook Natee Riamsaen, and Premchai’s driver Thanee Thummat – for camping in a protected forest area. During the raid, the authorities found firearms and animal remains, including those of a protected black panther.
Wichien then claimed on February 8, 2018 that Premchai tried to bribe him and other forest officials to let the case slide.
Wichien submitted a 20-minute audio recording as evidence, where Premchai was heard saying, “Is there any way you could help me out? Any measures to follow? If you need anything, I’ll get it for you.” The court found the recording to be sufficient evidence of attempted bribery, even though the bribe was not explicitly mentioned.
Earlier in March, the Thong Pha Phum Provincial Court in Kanchanaburi sentenced Premchai to 16 months in prison for weapons-related charges and conspiring to poach wildlife. However, the court found Premchai innocent of killing and eating a black panther in a wildlife sanctuary.
Yong, Thanee, and Natee were previously handed sentences of varying lengths for carrying weapons and possessing protected animal carcasses, but all three men and Premchai are out on bail.
The value of Italian-Thai Development Public Co. Ltd. dipped by 2.5 percent on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in the day running up to the verdict.
This is a developing story and may be updated without notice.