PHUKET — A retired French soldier is due for a court appearance in Phuket province for firing a handgun during a fistfight with a Russian tourist on Tuesday, police said.
Garard Pecherstorfer, 63, was charged with firearms-related offenses while the tourist, Sergey Antonov, was also charged with assault over what police said was a dispute over a rented car that escalated into violence. An officer in charge of the case ruled out any connections to the transnational crime Phuket is known for.
“There were no mafia involved in this,” Chaiwat Uikum, chief of Patong Police Station, said Wednesday. “This is a personal dispute and has nothing to do with mafia, I can guarantee you.”
According to the police officer, Antonov rented a car from a shop owned by Pecherstorfer’s Thai wife in January after entering Thailand on a tourist visa. He never paid. The Russian tourist later contacted the shop to extend the rental period and promised to pay, but the shop refused on the grounds the passport he deposited as a guarantee had already expired, Col. Chaiwat said.
Pecherstorfer and his wife confronted Antonov on Tuesday about the late payment, and according to Chaiwat, the Russian tourist ended up punching Pecherstorfer during a heated argument, which prompted the Frenchman to pull out a handgun and fire two shots. No one was hurt.
Upon seeing the gun, Antonov charged at Pecherstorfer, disarmed him and held him down until officers arrived, the police colonel said.
The two were then taken to Patong Police station and charged.
Chaiwat described Pecherstorfer as a former soldier in the French armed forces who has lived in Thailand for 14 years.
He said both suspects will have to appear in court soon but did not give any dates.
“We will be fair to both sides,” Chaiwat said.