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2 senior officers sentenced to jail in Thai police scandal

January 30, 2015

BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai court on Wednesday sentenced two top police officers embroiled in a high-profile corruption scandal to six years in prison on charges of insulting the monarchy and running a gambling den.

The Criminal Court on Friday found former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan and his ex-deputy guilty of citing the monarchy for personal benefit while operating a gambling den in Bangkok.

At least seven people were arrested in November on serious charges ranging from bribery to defaming the monarchy by invoking claims of links to the palace. Pongpat and his five subordinates were subsequently fired from service and stripped off their titles.

Investigators found that Pongpat and his aide, Kowit Wongrungroj, kept an illicit fortune that included antique paintings, golden postage stamps, illegal ivory and tens of millions of dollars in cash hidden in secret vaults at a dozen private residences. Prosecutors said they collected the money from the gambling den and misled others to believe the operation was backed by the royal family.

Pongpat is a relative of Thailand’s crown prince’s ex-wife Srirasmi, who gave up her royal title soon after the scandal broke.

He and other five accused also pleaded guilty in other two cases Friday.

Thailand’s police department has a reputation as one of the country’s most corrupt institutions, closely tied up in politics because of the opportunities for patronage. The military government, taking power from a civilian administration in a coup last May, has prioritized fighting corruption, but critics say its real goal is to cripple the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

Lese majeste, or the charges of insulting the monarchy, carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison in Thailand.

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