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6 million baht out of a British man in exchange for freedom scam

Five people have been charged in connection with swindling 6 million baht out of a British man in exchange for freeing him from detention, according to police.

Pol Col Ramet Kaewsungnoen, a superintendent of Mae Hong Son police, was among the accused. He was also using his alleged connection with Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakpan, the assistant national police chief. The name of Briton was withheld by police.

Pol Lt Gen Surachate told reporters on Tuesday that a woman named Thirawan Khiewngam said a bail request for the Briton, who was her friend and whose name was withheld by police, had been rejected. Interpol had issued a red notice for him, and he was detained by the Immigration Bureau in Bangkok.

Ms Thirawan then sought help from Thananwat Thanthanpan after the bail request was turned down. Mr Thananwat told her that he was acquainted with a man named Witthaya Somsrisomsakul who could get in touch with Pol Col Ramet, a former classmate of Pol Lt Gen Surachate in the Royal Police Cadet Academy.

Mr Thananwat said he believed Pol Col Ramet’s connection with Pol Lt Gen Surachate would be enough to persuade the immigration officers to release the Briton. However, the woman was told that 6 million baht must be paid to secure his freedom, Pol Lt Gen Surachate said.

On June 29, Mr Thananwat and Mr Witthaya visited the man at the detention centre in Bang Khen district, Bangkok. They asked to see the detainee in person but the officer on duty refused, citing a breach of regulation. 

Mr Witthaya phoned Pol Col Ramet and had the duty officer speak to the senior police officer. Pol Col Ramet tried in vain to convince the officer the detainee used to work as his informant and that the suspect should be allowed visitors. 

However, the duty officer again denied the two men access to the detention cell and said they should contact his superiors.

Mr Witthaya then told Mr Thananwat to tell Ms Thirawan to transfer 6 million baht to some bank accounts. However, after the money was transferred, Mr Witthaya made little attempt to secure bail and could not be reached on his phone. 

Ms Thirawan then decided to file a police complaint against the group with the Pak Klongsan police. 

Pol Lt Gen Surachate said investigators confirmed that Pol Col Ramet had indeed spoken to the duty officer on June 29. The assistant national police chief added that during the phone conversation, Pol Col Ramet mentioned his name to the officer in an apparent bid to gain detention access. 

The 6 million baht was found to have been remitted to third-party bank accounts before the money was eventually transferred to Pol Col Ramet’s and his family members’ bank accounts, as well as accounts owned by Mr Witthaya.  

The Pak Klongsan police have gathered evidence and summonsed Pol Col Ramet, Mr Witthaya, 67, and three others — Apirak Thiengtham, 43, Natnaree Boonma, 35, and Thipsuda Insongjai, 26 — to acknowledge the charges against them. Initially, they have been charged with colluding to commit fraud. 

The three other suspects allegedly opened the third-party bank accounts to receive the 6 million baht.

Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakpan, the assistant national police chief, gives an interview with reporters in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Screenshot from Police TV’s Facebook page)

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