By Khanathit Srihirundaj
The police operation, code-named “Chaiya Sayop Pairee 61/3”, arrested an elder brother of Wanchalerm and a close aid, said NSB chief Pol Lt-General Sommai Kongwisaisuk.
The close aid, Photchanart Phermpoon, wanted for allegedly aiding drugs crimes by money-laundering, was arrested at around 6am at a condominium in the Rama IX area.
Police also seized a pistol and assets worth an estimated Bt20 million, including five luxury cars and a high-powered motorcycle.
Police said Photchanart initially confessed to having received money from Wanchalerm to purchase cars, a type of asset that could fetch a high price and is easy to sell and to transfer ownership. That was in line with a police probe that had found a sum of Bt80 million was deposited and withdrawn from Photchanart's bank accounts last year, Sommai said.
Wanchalerm’s elder brother, Pahoon Kamonlert, 34, was arrested at 8am that morning at Din Daeng apartment building number 37. They used a February 9 court-issued arrest warrant for the charges of aiding and abetting drugs crimes.
Pahoon, who works as Thai folk singer, model and Thailand league footballer, claimed that he rarely saw his younger brother and said he was unaware that he was wanted for aiding in his brother’s alleged drugs crimes. Police seized Pahoon's Toyota Yaris car and four motorcycles, along with bank account books and financial documents for further inspection.
Later, police extended the search to a two-storey house in the On Nut area belonging to Wanchalerm’s wife, Warinya Lampai. The house was unoccupied and locked when police arrived. Police posted a sign declaring the asset was being impounded for inspection to determine if it was linked to drugs money.
The “Chaiya Sayop Pairee 61/3” operation was launched on Monday morning to search 15 locations in Bangkok and nearby areas, plus another 10 locations in Central and South regions. The operation aims to smash players in the criminal drugs racket, especially those linked to a drugs-trafficking network led by alleged Lao kingpin Xaysana Keopimpha. Wanchalerm’s gang was found to have links to Natthapol Nakkham, who was recently arrested as a suspect in Xaysana’s alleged network.
Following the arrest last July of drugs-transporting suspect Theerapong Suanyaem, 27, along with four million yaba pills, 31 kilograms of “ice” (crystal meth) and 40 kilograms of heroin, a police probe found the batch allegedly belonged to Wanchalerm. He allegedly used trusted persons or relatives to hold ill-gotten assets on his behalf, said Sommai.
Details of operation “Chaiya Sayop Pairee 61/3” will be announced during a press conference on February 14.