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Police hunt oil smuggling masterminds

Police hunt oil smuggling masterminds

Police have vowed to track down the masterminds behind an oil smuggling ring and apprehend seven additional crew members who remain missing after the recapture of three seized oil-smuggling vessels on Monday.

Pol Col Anek Taosupap, deputy commander of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), stated on Tuesday that during the investigation of the missing vessels, police have also detained more suspects and witnesses, adding complexity to the case.

Evidence now links the ships to at least four individuals believed to be the operation’s ringleaders, according to Pol Col Anek. The police will compile this evidence before requesting arrest warrants from the court.

On Sunday, three confiscated fishing boats modified for smuggling diesel were spotted in international waters near Malaysia. These vessels, containing 330,000 liters of smuggled oil, had vanished from a pier in Chon Buri the previous week.

Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat Pankaew, deputy commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), reported that the ships sailed from Koh Kood, Cambodia, to international waters near Malaysia. On Monday morning, police intercepted the vessels – the Kamraingoen, JP, and Daorung – and towed them to Marine Police Division 7 in Songkhla by 7:35 p.m.

The Kamraingoen had been partly repainted, and the Daorung had engine issues. Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat said the crew had sold the contraband oil in Cambodia and fled the pier before fully altering the boats’ appearance when they learned police were pursuing them.

“The tanks were almost empty when the vessels were recovered at sea,” he noted. Initially, the boats carried oil worth 4-5 million baht on the grey market for contraband fuel. The vessels themselves are valued at about 30 million baht.

Three or four police officers will be held accountable for the boats’ disappearance from the marine police pier in Sattahip district of Chon Buri on June 12. These were among five boats seized in the Gulf of Thailand in March for smuggling oil, kept at the marine police pier since March 19, while all crew members were released on bail.

Fifteen crew members were on board the three ships when they vanished, but only eight were found when police later recovered the vessels. Charged with nighttime burglary, none admitted to owning the vessels. Seven crew members are still at large, and the police are actively searching for them.

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