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Pattaya Daily News

06 May 2014 :: 11:05:43 am 85533

Two cops ‘could face jail time’ for Phuket dive industry extortion

The special investigation team from the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) looking into the allegations of police extortion in the dive industry in Phuket has concluded that there is plausible evidence to believe that at least two Chalong police officers were involved in extortion.
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The officers could be fired from the police and be put on trial with jail sentences of up to 15 years looming at the end of the process.The PACC investigation team, led by Pol Lt Col Wannop Somchintanakul, was in Phuket from April 28 to Saturday (May 3) to investigate the claims of exortion raised by the Association of Thailand Underwater Sports (ATUS).

Pol Col Pravesana Mulpramook, Secretary-General of the PACC, said at a press conference on Saturday that the investigators had interviewed more than 10 dive instructors who claimed to be victims of the extortion, as well as a number of Chalong-based police officers.

“The police took 17 diving instructors to the police station and investigated them one by one. Those who didn’t have full documentation or work permits were fined but the police didn’t touch the ones who had work permits.

“What we found was that the police told them that if they didn’t want to be checked regularly, they should pay the officers a monthly fee of about B3,000.

“Initially, two non-commissioned Chalong police officers are, we believe, involved with the extortion. We are building the case but we must wait for completion of witness questioning and the gathering of evidence before we can proceed further.”

Col Pravesana said that if the PACC finds the accusations have merit, the police officers could face both disciplinary and criminal action.

On the disciplinary side, if found culpable, they will be fired from the police and possibly lose their pension rights. On the criminal side, it will be up to the court to decide whether they are guilty and, if they are, how much time they will spend in jail. The maximum penalty for extortion is 15 years.

“We expect to complete the investigation soon. We will decide who did wrong by next month and send the result to the PACC investigation board. We have to do it fast to set an example to heads of government organisations [in general].”Claude de Crissey, French Honorary Consul and owner of diving companies, also speaking at the press conference, held at his offices in Royal Place, Phuket Town, said that foreign staff would obey the law.

“If the Provincial Employment Office says that they must not carry customers’ bags because this is a job reserved for Thai tour guides [one of the accusations that apparently allowed the accused police to put pressure on their victims], then they will not do it.”

In the future, he said, he would get his dive instructors to sign a paper stating that they understand what they can and cannot do at work.

However, he added, “Yes, we have rules and we must follow the rules. But if you apply the rules too strictly you will destroy the economic system.”

Col Wannop told The Phuket News, “You may think that the government sector never really takes charge in anything. Many times you could say that they come and then go and the issue just fades away.“But this is not the case with the PACC – we are true and we always take action.”

View the original story on The Phuket News

Photo : Internet   Category : Thailand News

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