Thai Police Question Police Chief Allegedly Tied to Illegal Online Gambling

Posted on: September 25, 2023, 06:38h. 

Last updated on: September 26, 2023, 03:27h.

Police in Thailand from the Cyber ​​​​Crime Investigation Bureau (CCIB) arrested Deputy National Police Chief Surachate Hakparn in Bangkok late on Monday. The operation is tied to Surachate’s suspected involvement in illicit online gambling activities.

Thai Deputy Police Chief Surachate Hakparn in a press conference
Thai Deputy Police Chief Surachate Hakparn in a press conference. He has become the subject of an investigation into illegal gambling. (Image: Pattaya One News)

Upon the police’s arrival, Surachate purportedly denied anyone access to his residence, claiming his authority as the deputy chief of the Royal Thai Police. The search squad was advised to wait for a higher-up to arrive, and shortly, Lieutenant General Voravat Watnakhonbancha, the CCIB commissioner, approved the search warrant.

Investigators are also looking into the five houses he bought for his subordinates on the same property where he lives.

Authorities also searched five Bangkok districts, including Phetchaburi, Samut Prakan, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, and Saraburi. They paid visits to 30 houses, including Surachate’s residence.

The raids were a part of  “Operation Big Cleaning Day,” a  collaboration with anti-corruption unit officers and special operations commandos from the Metropolitan Police, according to The Bangkok Post.

Raids Across Bangkok

There is speculation about additional residences that allegedly pertain to a compact police squad near Surachate. These houses are suspected of being linked to an internet-based gambling platform in Laos estimated to hold a value of THB1 billion (US$27.75 million).

After examining the financial activities within this network, CCIB law enforcement officials accumulated sufficient proof to persuade the court to grant a search and apprehension order. This led to the raid on Surachate’s compound and the interrogation of several high-ranking police officers. All reportedly worked under the deputy police chief.

The raids followed the arrest of Pongsiri Tharatchawongsuek this past July. He owns the Lamphun Warriors Football Club, which the authorities say he purchased with proceeds from an illegal gambling operation to launder money.

In a statement, Surachate verified that five to six individuals working under him are expected to face arrest warrants because of their suspected participation in illegal gambling. He claimed his innocence and said he believed his subordinates were also innocent.

Mixed Messages

The raids came just days after China gave accolades to Surachate and Thailand’s police. Last week, China awarded the Royal Thai Police the Gold Great Wall Commemorative Award at an international crime prevention conference in Lianyungang, China. Surachate received the award on Thailand’s behalf.

The medal is part of a program established by the Ministry of Public Security of China. It is awarded to foreign law enforcement officers or departments that China singles out for protecting its national interests. In the case of the Royal Thai Police, China singled it out for its “exemplary cooperation” in combating transnational crime.

Surachate is one of several high-ranking police officers in line to take over the Royal Thai Police, according to The Bangkok Times.

The current chief, Damrongsak Kittiprapas, is retiring at the end of the month, and Surachate is on a shortlist of candidates eligible for the position.