Police in northeastern Nong Khai are now trying to determine whether the Bt98 million in undeclared Thai banknotes halted at the Lao border on Tuesday was linked to drug trafficking or other criminal operations in Thailand.
Provincial Police Region 4 chief Pol Maj-General Surachai Kuandechakup gave the order to widen the investigation on Friday, according to deputy spokesman Pol Colonel Krissana Pattanacharoen.
He described it as a proactive move to prevent crime as per policy instructions from national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda and Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan.
On Wednesday evening, Nong Khai Customs chief Nimit Saeng-ampai said Bt94 million of the Bt98 million might end up in state coffers.
He said the Lao smugglers – brothers Suebanh Tiasili, 30, and Khumborn Tiasyly, 24 – had agreed to pay a Bt40,000 fine and let Thailand keep Bt94 million, thus avoiding further prosecution.
Nimit notified the Customs Department of the proposed arrangement and was waiting for a reply.
The authorities initially deemed the cash illegally acquired, but the brothers maintain they’d collected it for their currency-exchange business in Laos and had failed to declare it as required by law when trying to cross the border.
The cash was allegedly found hidden inside milk boxes and in the engine compartment of the car in which the brothers were travelling – the same car later found to have been in and out of Thailand at least five times in November and four times in December.
Customs regulations state that anyone transporting across the border undeclared cash valued between Bt450,000 and Bt2 million is liable to a Bt20,000 fine, while larger amounts draw a Bt40,000 fine.