August 23, 2014 01:00
By Piyanut Thamnukasetchai
AGENTS FROM the Anti-Money Laundering Office yesterday raided a number of properties covering a vast area in Nakhon Ratchasima province, allegedly illegally acquired by a well-known businessman over two decades ago.
Agents seized a number of installations and about 30 farm trucks in Sung Noen district.
AMLO secretary-general Seehanat Prayoonrat said it was the body’s first action against financiers who may not have fully encroached on public land on their own, but expanded their acquisition through a group of farmers who extensively trespassed on government land including national parks.
He accused Ammarin Yoosukdee of illegally acquiring state-owned land covering 3,900 rai (624 hectares) over the past 22 years.
The total value of the assets seized was about Bt50 million, he said, with further seizures targeting other properties worth Bt100 million all up – including three homes in Wang Nam Kheo district and two buildings in Pak Thong Chai district, plus a large sum in 12 bank accounts.
Seehanat implicated two other businessmen, Somphot Srimai and Somchai Paesoongnern, in the alleged encroachment.
The raids were conducted at four locations in Sung Noen district – the Ammarin Hotel and Ammarin Resort, Ammarin’s retreat home, and a retreat home of Somchai.
At the latter location, trucks that been leased to farmers were seized. It is alleged the farmers encroached on public land and later turned the land over to Ammarin.
The AMLO chief said Ammarin, Somphot and Somchai had to prove that they had acquired the assets legally.
A senior military commander who took part in the raid, Colonel Sommai Bussaba, said it was estimated that Ammarin had generated around Bt3 billion in revenue from sugar cane grown on the land based on annual revenue of around Bt80 million that he had made since 1992.
The Second Army Region, which operates across the entire Northeast, has reportedly reclaimed a total of 50,000 rai of land in national parks and other state-owned areas that had been illegally acquired.
Ammarin reportedly spoke to agents at the scene and claimed that he lawfully owned around 1,000 rai, but admitted to benefiting from revenue supplied to him by farmers from crop harvests on an unknown and large amount of land. He pleaded for fairness and said all other encroachers should also face legal action.