Thai cops probe alleged drug lord's celebrity links

Xaysana (left) being escorted by police after his arrest at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Jan 19.
Xaysana (left) being escorted by police after his arrest at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Jan 19.PHOTO: THE NATION

BANGKOK • Thai police swooped on the home of a popular actress as part of a series of Bangkok raids yesterday, in a widening probe into the celebrity and business links of an alleged Laotian drug lord.

Investigators say elite contacts may have helped shield the drug cartel of Xaysana Keopimpha, dubbed by police as an "international drug kingpin".

Xaysana, 42, was arrested last month at Bangkok's main airport.

Squads of Thai officers staged more than a dozen raids in Bangkok, including the apartment of TV actress and talk show host Napapa Thantrakul.

She is not being treated as a suspect, but police believe her husband had accepted several cars from one of Xaysana's drug couriers, including a Lamborghini.

Thai authorities say Xaysana's sprawling drug empire funnelled caffeine-laced methamphetamine tablets known as "yaba" - produced in Myanmar - to Thailand and Malaysia, two top markets for the tablets.

According to Thai police, Bangkok and its surrounding suburbs offered crucial hideaways and protection for the drug syndicate, with high-end car dealers and celebrities allegedly helping to launder Xaysana's profits.

Said Thailand's Narcotic Suppression Bureau chief, Mr Sommai Kongvisaisuk: "Xaysana's network includes several groups, particularly hi-so figures, entertainment operators and luxury car dealers."

The term "hi-so", from the English phrase "high society", is used by Thais to describe wealthy people with powerful links who are often seen as untouchable.

Authorities said Ms Napapa's husband, Mr Akkarakit Worrarojcharoendej, known as "Benz", fled town early this morning before police arrived at his home and motorcycle repair shop.

Said Narcotic Suppression Bureau deputy head Pornchai Charoenwong: "We are searching to compile evidence and links, and are also scrutinising their assets, bank accounts and cars."

Thai police have already arrested six suspects accused of working for Xaysana, including three ethnic Hmong men in north-eastern Thailand. They allegedly helped move drugs manufactured in the "Golden Triangle" - a lawless border region where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar all meet.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'Thai cops probe alleged drug lord's celebrity links'. Print Edition | Subscribe