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Premchai convicted of bribery in poaching case, handed another year in jail

Jun 11. 2019
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By The Nation

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Construction tycoon Premchai Karnasutra was sentenced to one year in jail on Tuesday after being found guilty of trying to bribe officials while being arrested at the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi early last year.

The Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases Region 7 acquitted Premchai's aide Yong Dodkhruea of bribery, defined in law as inducing officials to do, not to do or to delay their duties, and punishable with a maximum jail term of five years and/or fine of Bt10,000.

The one-year jail term for the powerful and well-connected president of Italian-Thai Development company will be added to the 16-month prison term he was handed by Thong Pha Phum Provincial Court on March 20 after it heard the poaching case against Premchai and several accomplices, including Yong.

In that lawsuit, Premchai was given six months for carrying firearms in public without permission, eight months for “aiding others in hunting game in a wildlife sanctuary without permission” and two months for possessing the carcass of a protected species – a Kalij pheasant – without permission.

Yong was jailed for 13 months for carrying a weapon and illegally possessing the carcass of a black leopard.

Two other defendants, both of whom worked for Premchai, were also convicted of related crimes. Premchai’s driver Thanee Thummart was sentenced to two years and 17 months in prison for several offences, including possession of the black leopard’s carcass and hunting inside a wildlife sanctuary. Premchai’s cook Natee Riemsan received a suspended four-month jail term and was fined Bt10,000 for possessing the leopard carcass.

The Thong Pha Phum court also ordered Premchai and Thanee to pay Bt2 million plus 7.5 per cent annual interest in compensation to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, which oversees the Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary. Premchai, Yong and Thanee are now out on bail pending a possible appeal. The Department of Appellate Litigation Region 7 in May appealed against the first court’s decision, saying Premchai should have been punished for other offences too.

Premchai was later granted bail on a Bt200,000 guarantee and has 30 days to appeal the sentence. 

The defendant is fighting another court battle over the illegal possession of the tusks of endangered African elephants. His wife Kanitha and close aide Wandee Sompoom are also charged in this case. 

Police seized the tusks along with 43 guns during an investigation launched after Premchai was arrested for allegedly poaching wildlife in the Kanchanaburi sanctuary.

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