15 Thai officials charged after two Chinese suspects walk free

Thai police officers found the Chinese men forging passports for fellow nationals during a raid at the former consulate of Pacific island Nauru in Bangkok. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

BANGKOK - Thailand has charged 15 officials with corruption after two Chinese suspects walked free from a raid on a passport-forging den, police said Monday.

The case comes as concerns in Thailand grow over so-called “grey businesses” – illegal operations run by Chinese nationals.

Police raided the former consulate of Pacific island Nauru in Bangkok late last month following allegations that Chinese citizens were squatting there.

Inside officers found two Chinese men – both wanted by Beijing – forging passports for fellow nationals, Deputy National Police Chief Surachet Hakpal said.

But the two managed to escape, he told reporters, with the collusion of five officials from the Department of Special Investigation as well as nine police officers and a military sergeant.

The officials, along with a translator, extracted a 10 million baht (S$400,000) bribe from the suspects for their help, Mr Surachet said.

The scheme came to light, Mr Surachet said, when the translator confessed after being caught attempting to flee to Malaysia and a lost hard disk containing the original evidence was discovered.

Official reports said around 2.5 million baht was seized during the raid, but footage found on the hard disk and corroborated by the translator showed around eight million baht had been discovered.

Mr Surachet told a press conference that the men asked for more money.

All 16 men were charged with corruption, or asking for a bribe, and the 15 officials – excluding the translator – were charged with abuse of power.

The military sergeant was also charged with attempting to destroy evidence after the hard drive containing images of the raid was discovered at his home.

The officials and officers have denied all charges.

“Asking for a bribe carries quite a severe penalty, the maximum is death,” Mr Surachet said.

“We will further investigate whether the raid was approved by their superior,” he added. AFP

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