Thai ‘poacher’s’ wife caught with African elephant tusks

Premchai’s wife to face charge of possessing African elephant tusks
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THE WIFE of construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta will face a charge of possessing two pairs of African elephant tusks.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment General Surasak Karnjanarat yesterday pledged to proceed with the charge against Kanitla Wittayanah.

He said Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) officials would inform Kanitla later this week of the charge, which is punishable by a maximum of four years in jail, a fine of Bt40,000 or both.

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Surasak also said authorities were continuing their investigation into allegations that Premchai and three accomplices were involved in killing wildlife, including an endangered black leopard, in the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi last month.

He said the ministry had set up a committee to follow the investigation, which would meet next Monday.

Pol General Jarumporn Suramanee, a Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission board member, will discuss the case with investigators in Kanchanaburi tomorrow.

Earlier, deputy national police commissioner Pol General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said the elephant tusks seized from Premchai’s Bangkok house last month were legally registered by his wife and that any further action regarding the tusks would be up to the DNP.

Srivara had already drawn a barrage of criticism after a photo appeared online showing him bowing deeply in greeting Premchai, the president of Italian-Thai Development Plc, at Thong Pha Phum police station when the latter appeared to answer poaching charges.

Srivara responded to critics by saying his respectful wai to the accused had no bearing on the way the case would be investigated.

Srivara added that the investigation against Premchai and the other three was not being delayed. He said the probe was 90-per-cent complete and should be concluded by March 24.

Police had been waiting three weeks for the DNP’s forensic test results on meat found during Premchai’s arrest, he said.

Police Forensic Science Office chief Pol Maj-General Thawatchai Mekprasertsuk said the three firearms seized from Premchai’s forest camp were confirmed to belong to Premchai.

Shotgun pellets that killed the black leopard were of a type that can be loaded into a 20-gauge shotgun, which was among the guns seized.

The shotgun pellets that killed the animal were from a single shot fired 10 metres from the leopard, he said. The direction of the shot could not be confirmed.

Counter Corruption Division chief Pol Maj-General Kamol Rienracha said investigators would today interview sanctuary head Wichian Shinwong, who has been widely lauded for ignoring Premchai’s status as a wealthy executive of a large firm, concerning Premchai’s alleged attempt to bribe his way out of the arrest.

“If Wichian maintains he was offered a bribe, that will be that,” Kamol said.

The sanctuary official’s word would be sufficient, as an audio recording of the alleged bribery had “gone missing”, he added.

Kamol said investigators would listen to an audio clip published online and include it in their case report.

He said a “simulation” would be conducted to check whether Wichian’s claim of being offered a bribe represented grounds for further action.

If that proves to be the case, Premchai would be summoned to face an additional charge of attempted bribery.

Asked about the donation of flashlights to park officers on February 3 from Premchai’s company, Kamol said investigators would examine the intent behind the donation.

An executive at the firm has said the gift was not intended as a bribe.

Kamol said National Anti-Corruption Commission regulations allowed civil servants to accept gifts worth up to Bt3,000. Gifts beyond that value must be reported to a supervisor. – The Nation


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