Marine police search for three oil tankers suspected of fleeing abroad

FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 2024

Authorities are on high alert as three oil tankers, critical evidence in an illegal oil trade case linked to notorious smuggler "Joe Pattani," have vanished from the Sattahip Marine Police Pier in Chonburi Province.

The tankers were last seen docked at the pier, but their disappearance on June 11 has sparked a frantic search operation.

This morning (June 14), two marine police patrol boats returned to the Sattahip Marine Police Pier after an extensive search for the missing tankers, which have been unaccounted for since June 11.

The head of the search team briefly commented that more time is needed to complete the investigation.

Initial reports indicate that the search team extended their patrols as far as Koh Chang in Trat Province, acting on tips from locals who claimed to have spotted the tankers.

Marine police search for three oil tankers suspected of fleeing abroad

Despite these efforts, the tankers remain missing, leading to suspicions that they may have already fled Thai waters.

In a related development, Lek, the only crew member who did not flee with the other 17 crew members, was interrogated last night.

Lek, who plans to return to his home in Samut Sakhon, was questioned about the escape plan.

Pol. Maj. Gen. Jaroonkiat Pankaew, Deputy Commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau, emphasized the need to determine responsibility for the incident.

He highlighted that both the fleeing crew members and the marine police officers who neglected their duty and allowed the evidence to disappear will be held accountable.

The investigation will explore how the tankers, docked just 100 meters from the pier, were stolen and whether sufficient security measures were in place.

CCTV footage from the pier revealed that the tankers turned off their lights at 8.10pm on June 11 before they vanished, suggesting that someone facilitated the escape.

Authorities suspect that Joe Pattani, the owner of the tankers, is likely involved, though there is no concrete evidence yet identifying the orchestrators of the escape.

Additionally, reports have surfaced that the two remaining seized tankers, which were not stolen, were found to be empty of oil. This raises further questions about the missing tankers' cargo and their intended destination.

Arrest warrants are being prepared for the 17 people who fled on the tankers.

The five tankers involved in the case, along with a crew of 30 people, were initially seized, and all crew members were released on bail of 200,000 baht each. The three missing tankers belonged to Joe Pattani, while the other two, which are still accounted for, belonged to Noom Phetchaburi, reportedly Joe Pattani's younger brother.

Evidence from CCTV footage shows the fleeing crew members purchasing and loading large quantities of supplies onto the tankers, indicating preparation for a planned escape.

Sources have revealed that the escape plan was in the works for some time, with an initial agreement to pay 6 million baht per tanker, totalling 30 million baht. However, the final amount settled was 1 million baht per tanker, and the three tankers were taken out first to sell the oil.

Authorities continue their search and investigation, hoping to bring those responsible to justice and recover the missing tankers.