THE WHEREABOUTS of Premchai Karnasuta, president of Italian-Thai Development Plc, were unknown yesterday as police continued to gather evidence and pressure mounted against the construction mogul over poaching-related charges.
Meanwhile, Premchai’s lawyer could appear on his behalf at Kanchanaburi Court today, prolonging speculation that the high-profile businessman might choose to abscond given the unrelenting scandal surrounding his recent arrest.
However, Premchai’s lawyer made an appointment with the court for him to appear on March 26, deputy national police chief Pol General Srivara Ransibhramanakul said.
The construction mogul has not been seen in public since he was arrested on February 4 and freed the following day after being charged with nine counts relating to poaching and hunting in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary. The tycoon and three other suspects, all of whom were captured near a campsite in the sanctuary, have denied the charges.
Srivara earlier denied rumours that the billionaire mogul had already left Thailand and taken shelter in a neighbouring country.
However, he told reporters that he had ordered border checkpoints to tighten screening measures to prevent Premchai from fleeing the country.
“We expect that the investigation into the charges, including the gathering of evidence, will not take more than a month,” he said.
Before Premchai and his companions were caught in a restricted area in the wildlife sanctuary, his aide reportedly told wildlife officials that he wanted to “study nature” during a trip in the sanctuary. However, at his campsite, forest rangers found the remains of endangered animals, including that of a black leopard and barking deer, as well as several hunting rifles.
Police were examining the confiscated evidence, including carcasses, the leopard’s skin and the firearms, Srivara said, adding that forensics officials were also testing four ivory tusks seized from Premchai’s Bangkok house to determine whether they matched a permit he possessed.
Forensic officials found animal bones and pieces of intestine during a subsequent visit to the campsite to collect the evidences.
The last items were found in a creek near the campsite.
The remains were believed to include the leopard’s leg bones, two bone fragments and part of its large intestine. “On the leg bones, there was still meat attached. We believe someone ripped the meat off and threw away the bones,” Srivara said.
Police also examined locations where the leopard could have been shot based on where its hair had been found. “It is possible that after being shot, the animal ran away and died at a spot where its excrement was found,” he added.
Officials believe that the animal was butchered at a site nearby where 17 kilograms of intestines were found, although there were no traces of blood.
Kanchanaburi police plan to issue an additional charge against Premchai of cruelty to animals, if he appears today.
Meanwhile, Pol Maj-General Kamol Rienracha, commander of police’s Counter Corruption Division, said his unit had been assigned to gather evidence against Premchai after he allegedly offered bribes to officials to release him after he had been arrested.
In connection to those allegations, he will be summoned to meet police next Thursday at 10am.
Premchai and his companions allegedly tried to offer benefits to forest rangers after they were arrested.
A ranger recorded the alleged negotiations and presented the audio tape to police.
The investigation has also expanded to property owned by Premchai in a mountainous area of Loei province, which is being examined to determine if it encroaches upon state-owned land.
Published : February 15, 2018
By : KORNKAMON AKSORNDEJ, SURIYA PATATAYO THE NATION