THREE MONTHS after Italian-Thai Construction president Premchai Karnasuta was arrested in a wildlife sanctuary where the butchered fresh meat of an endangered black leopard was found, public prosecutors have resolved to lay six charges against him.
Prosecutors will also seek a compensation of Bt462,000 from Premchai and his three companions who were arrested in Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province on February 4, said Somsri Wattanapaisarn, director-general of the regional public prosecutors department. The charges against Premchai are punishable by up to 29 years in jail and fines of not more than Bt350,000.
The billionaire’s arrest in the wildlife sanctuary angered the public partly because his company, which is listed on the stock market and has built several mega-projects for government agencies, has stated policies to protect the environment, natural resources and wildlife.
Wildlife officers found a pot on a fire at his campsite containing a black leopard tail. Hidden in the nearby bush was the butchered fresh meat of the big cat as well as of a kalij pheasant and a wild boar. Many public groups have launched campaigns against Premchai, highlighting the fate of the leopard and vowing it would not die in vain.
Somsri told a press conference that three other suspects arrested along with Premchai will be charged differently.
Yong Dotekrau, who is Premchai’s close aide, will be charged with a total of seven counts, six of them similar to those of Premchai and an additional one of having in his possession guns and ammunition without a permit. Natee Ruengsang, a long-time cook of Premchai, was charged with five counts, including possessing guns and ammunition; while Thanee Thommart, the driver, would be charged on eight counts.
Somsri said that the prosecutors decided to seek compensation of Bt462,000 from the four suspects on behalf of the National Parks, Widlife and Plants Department according to the National Reserve Act.
She confirmed that prosecutors would also file a civil lawsuit against Premchai for allegedly damaging the environment, and would seek compensation of Bt12.7 million from the billionaire.
Meanwhile, chief investigator Pol General Srivara Rangsibhramanakul said that anti-corruption officers had sent a corruption charge against Premchai to public prosecutors yesterday, and they were ready to investigate further if the prosecutors wanted more information.
Premchai was alleged to have attempted to bribe the officials who arrested him at his campsite in exchange for his freedom. Police claim that he offered “whatever they needed” to let him go free.