June 16, 2014 00:00 By Thanapat Kitjakosol
MP wants case to be reopened, but 'hard disk with film of 4 police missing'
A lawyer for the family of slain billionaire Akeyuth Anchanbutr says a missing hard disk of surveillance camera footage has crucial images of four senior police suspected of kidnapping and killing him.
The controversial businessman was an arch-critic of the Yingluck Shinawatra government.
Suwat Apaipak said the seizure of power last month by the military had spurred former Democrat MP Watchara Phetthong to seek to have the murder case reopened through junta-appointed acting national police chief General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit.
Because of this, Santipharb Phengduang, Akeyuth’s former driver and suspect in the murder case, was now under protection in prison, Suwat said.
The lawyer said he knew who the four officers were, but since he did not have the hard disk he could be hit with defamation lawsuits if he named them.
“They are seeking to file defamation lawsuits against me – these four officers who hold the rank of police colonel and police lieutenant colonel,” he said.
There has been speculation in the media about the case being reopened under the military rule.
Under criminal law procedure, no case can be reopened without new evidence surfacing, and it has to be initiated by police.
Suwat said the vehicle that carried Akeyuth’s body after he was “accidentally killed” while being tortured could not have travelled in the wrong lane in a 10-hour journey to Phatthalung as it did without being led by a police cruiser. The body was taken to Phatthalung, the home province of Santipharb’s father, the lawyer said.
Suwat repeated his theory on why Akeyuth was kidnapped from his home – he was meant to be taught a lesson for threatening to “rat on” a person, but the kidnappers “handled the victim a little too heavily”.
Akeyuth became rich running a pyramid scheme two decades ago, and stayed in self-imposed exile until the statute of limitations in the case against him ran out.
He was a critic of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his ex-premier sister Yingluck.
He coined a notorious term, “the Secret Mission at Four Seasons Hotel”, which refers to a person whom he threatened to name publicly not long before he went missing on June 6 last year.
Former deputy prime minister Chalerm Yoobamrung announced his death five days later amid confusion over the arrest of Akeyuth’s driver and suspicion about his alleged confession.
Suwat said the possibility of the murder case being reopened remained slim without the hard disk or other new evidence.
Santipharb’s murder trial will commence on October 21. He has confessed to the crime and is the only witness in the killing, but there is interest as to whether he will change his guilty plea.