15 Thai officials charged after raiding suspects are walking free



Thai police said Monday that authorities have charged 15 officials with corruption after two Chinese suspects survived a raid on a passport fraud den.

The case comes as concerns grow in Thailand about so-called “gray companies” – illegal operations run by Chinese nationals.

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

Officials demanded bribes

Inside, the deputy chief of the national police, Surachit Hakpal, said officers found two Chinese men — both wanted by Beijing — forging passports of other citizens.

He told reporters that the two managed to escape with the complicity of five officials from the Special Investigation Department, nine police officers and a military sergeant.

Surachit said the officials, along with an interpreter, extracted a 10 million baht ($245,000) bribe from the suspects to help them.

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Surachit said the scheme came to light when the translator confessed after he was caught trying to flee to Malaysia and a missing hard drive containing the original evidence was found.

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

“They told the Chinese that it wasn’t enough and they asked for an extra four million baht,” Surachit told a news conference.

corruption

All sixteen men were charged with corruption, or soliciting a bribe, and the fifteen officials—minus 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 in his home.

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Officials and officers denied all charges.

Surachit said, “Seeking a bribe is punishable by severe punishment, and the extreme limit is death.”

He added, “We will continue to investigate whether the raid was approved by their president or not.”

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