‘New angle’ strengthens case against Premchai: prosecutors

national March 21, 2018 01:00

By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM,
KORNKAMON DEJ-AKSORN
KANATHIT SRIHIRANDEJ
THE NATION

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PROSECUTORS have found a “new angle” they have claimed solidifies poaching allegations against Italian-Thai Develop-ment Plc president Premchai Karnasuta, while his wife was yesterday charged with possessing two pairs of African elephant tusks without a permit.



The Attorney-General’s Office deputy spokesperson, Trumph Charliechan, said at a press conference that a deeper investigation of a “new angle” of the poaching charge would be conducted to bolster the indictment.

Investigators would look into a few specific topics related to the crime, which were not included in the earlier version of the case, he said. 

The team would submit results by next Monday, he said.

The prosecutor declined to give details of the “new angle”, saying that a disclosure would negatively affect litigation.

“It is very important to make sure that the indictment in this case will be as prudent as possible,” he said. “The prime suspect, Premchai, strongly insists that he did not commit any of the offences, so a comprehensive and firm indictment will be very important to bring him to justice.”

Premchai is currently free on bail of Bt150,000.

Meanwhile, Deputy Police Commissioner Pol General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said police had summoned Premchai and his chauffeur Yong Dodkreau to hear a new charge on bribery in relation to the case.

Police have completed the interrogation of Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary chief Wichian Shinwong and other forest rangers to confirm the allegation that Premchai had offered a bribe to Wichian to not arresting him.

Premchai and Yong denied the charge, saying they would speak to the court only. Srivara has ordered investigators to finish the indictment on the allegation by the end of this month.

Meanwhile, the head of the Corruption and Misconduct Division, Pol Maj-General Kamon Rien-archa, said that during an unofficial talk with Premchai and Yong, he had found conflicting information as Yong admitted only that it was his voice in a recording, but declined to elaborate. 

Police have a recording of a conversation involving three persons, one of whom suggests that a bribe might have been offered to Wichian. 

Premchai’s wife Kanitha Karnasuta was charged yesterday with possessing two pairs of African elephant tusks without a permit.

She told police that she did not know the tusks were from Africa.

The seizure of the tusks and 43 guns from Premchai’s house in Bangkok came after Premchai was arrested in early February on nine counts of poaching in the Kanchanaburi wildlife sanctuary.

A woman, Wandee Sompoom, was also charged as she countersigned a permit application that said the tusks were from Asian elephants.

Srivara, as chief investigator, said both suspects denied the charge, insisting they did not know the tusks were from African elephants. Kanitha claimed that she had inherited the tusks from her relatives who were already dead, he said.

Forensic officials identified the tusks as being from Africa but could not find records of them being imported.

 “Therefore, the presence of the tusks was violating Customs laws. However, in their defence, [the Karnasutas] claimed they thought the tusks were from Thai elephants,” Srivara said.

Meanwhile, Banyat Sai-arun, director of the wildlife protection division of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, said photos of the tusks and their sizes were provided during the permit application. The permits were registered in 2015. 

Both suspects were freed on a total bail of Bt300,000 yesterday.

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