BANGKOK — The former chief of the Central Investigation Bureau and six other defendants connected to a high-profile corruption scandal were sentenced to prison for money laundering today.
The seven men, including ex-CIB chief Pol.Lt.Gen. Pongpat Chayapan and his deputy Pol.Lt.Gen. Kowit Wongrungroj, were arrested in November after authorities investigated their assets and found thousands of items, including bars of gold and luxury cars, which appeared to be acquired through money laundering.
Accused of operating a crime syndicate run Pol.Lt.Gen. Pongpat, the group was charged with a slew of other offenses, including extortion, abuse of power, corruption, lese majeste (insult of monarchy), and running an illegal gambling den. More than 20 others were later arrested in connection with the alleged crime network.
Today, Pol.Lt.Gen. Pongpat was sentenced to 20 years for violating the Anti-Money Laundering Act. The jail term was reduced to 10 years because of his confession. His ex-deputy Pol.Lt.Gen. Kowit and four other defendants were sentenced to five years, and the sixth, a former chief of the Marine Police Division, was sentenced to one year and six months.
Pol.Lt.Gen. Pongpat’s jail term will be added to the six year sentence he recieved last month for defaming the monarchy. According to the court, Pol.Lt.Gen. Pongpat, who is the uncle of the Crown Prince’s wife, operated an illegal casino in Bangkok that he claimed was backed by the palace.
Several other members of Pol.Lt.Gen. Pongpat’s alleged crime network are also related to former Princess Srirasmi, who resigned from the Royal Family after the corruption scandal broke last year.
Srirasmi’s brother Col. Nattapol Suwadee has been charged with armed racketeering and illegal detention, and her sister, Sudathip Muangnuan, was found guilty of lese majeste earlier this month for citing her royal connections in order to win the rights to sell food products to the palace.
In response to the scandal, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn stripped Srirasmi's entire family of the royally-bestowed surname of Akharaphongpreecha, forcing them to revert back to their "commoner" surname, Suwadee, on 30 November.
Less than two weeks later, on 12 December, the Royal Household Bureau announced that Srirasmi had resigned from her status as a member of the Thai Royal Family. She moved out of the Crown Prince's palace in Bangkok to live with her parents in Ratchaburi province and has not been seen since 13 December, when she applied for a new national ID card as a commoner.
It is unclear whether Srirasmi and the Crown Prince are formally divorced. The couple married in 2001 and have one 9-year-old son.