Thailand's 'Joe Ferrari' cop indicted over custody death

Thitisan Utthanaphon is at the centre of a corruption scandal rocking Thailand's law enforcement authorities.
Thitisan Utthanaphon is at the centre of a corruption scandal rocking Thailand's law enforcement authorities.PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (AFP) - A former Thai district police chief known for his extravagant lifestyle is facing the death penalty after he was indicted on Monday (Nov 15) on charges including murder by torture over a fatal interrogation.

Thitisan Utthanaphon - nicknamed "Joe Ferrari" due to his penchant for luxury cars - is at the centre of a corruption scandal rocking Thailand's law enforcement authorities.

Video footage leaked in August showed a group of officers - allegedly including Thitisan - wrapping a plastic bag around a suspect's head while questioning him.

The 24-year-old suspect died in police custody and the viral video spurred an investigation into the actions of Thitisan and the six other officers present.

On Monday, Thailand's Office of the Attorney General announced that all seven officers will face charges.

"The Attorney General has agreed to indict all seven with four charges," said spokesman Ittiporn Kaewthip.

The charges include two counts of nonfeasance and a single count each of murder and murder by torture.

If found guilty of murder by torture, the group will be sentenced to death - the only punishment on the books for this crime.

The case has been sent to the country's Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct. A trial date has yet to be set.

After the footage leaked in August, 41-year-old Thitisan - a former district chief in the northern province of Nakhon Sawan - surrendered himself to police, who raided his Bangkok mansion and found 13 luxury cars.

He denied any wrongdoing during a press conference, saying the suspect's death was an accident.

Human rights observers say the scandal has further eroded trust in Thailand's law enforcement agencies, which have long been accused of opaque dealings and illegal activities to line their pockets.


The video showed a man with a bag placed over his head while he was pinned down by four men. PHOTOS: SCREENGRAB FROM SITTRA/FACEBOOK