Bangkok employees held in $2.4m jewellery heist

Bangkok employees held in $2.4m jewellery heist
PHOTO: The Nation/Asia News Network

FIVE SUSPECTS, INCLUDING COURIER, ARE ARRESTED WITHIN TWO DAYS OF THEFT; CASH RECOVERED; TWO SUSPECTS AT LARGE

Police have arrested five suspects over the robbery of 197.96 million yen (S$2.4 million) from employees of a Bangkok jewellery exporter and recovered all of the stolen cash. The arrested suspects include the exporter's employee who had transported the cash from Japan to Thailand earlier the same night.

Two more suspects are being sought.

The suspects reportedly confessed to carrying out the theft, in part due to personal debt issues, and had met more than 10 times in the past month to plot the robbery, Police Commissioner Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda told a press conference yesterday.

Suspects Narongchai Sawasdiphol, 32, Chawalit Cha-roenpol, 31, Surasak Srithawong, 35, Pongsak Pitasiripan, 31, and Krissada Atthawet, 30, face multiple charges, including armed robbery, assault, possession of guns and ammunitions, transporting guns and ammunition, and possession of stolen property.

A re-enactment of the crime is scheduled for today, said Chakthip, who praised officers for speedily arresting the suspects in just two days after he had told them to wrap up the investigation within a week. City police deputy chief Pol Maj-General Sompong Chingduang, who led the investigation, said formal arrest warrants had been obtained for all seven suspects.

Narongchai, who had been employed by the gold and jewellery exporter Pattharit Taerattanachai to carry the money from Japan, was the first to be arrested on Wednesday night. Two other suspects also worked for Pattharit, while Chawalit and Surasak were former employees.

Police alleged that Narongchai planned the robbery with his brother-in-law Natthapong Thanyatoon, 33, who remains at large.

Photo: The Nation/Asia News Network

Another suspect still at large is Natthapong's friend and the alleged getaway driver, Sarayuth Ritchainuwat, 31. Sarayuth also allegedly rented a room on September 1 at the condominium where the heist took place.

During Narongchai's arrest, police found all of the stolen cash still in the same carry-on luggage snatched from Pattharit's two employees in the Ratchada Pavilion condominium's parking lot at 11.15pm on Monday.

Police on Wednesday night also retrieved a brand-new pickup truck stolen during the robbery, which was found abandoned at an intersection near the head office of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand in Bangkok's Huay Kwang district.

After the press conference, Pattharit brought flowers to thank police for their speedy arrest of suspects and retrieval of all the stolen cash and the truck. Meanwhile, Customs Department chief Kulis Sombatsiri said the 197.96 million yen that Narongchai had carried in luggage from Japan through the Suvarnabhumi Airport had been properly declared upon his arrival on Monday.

The officials' examination of the past year's records regarding cash brought in by Pattharit's group also found that it had been properly declared. Kulis said people carrying more than US$15,000 (S$20,437) in cash either in to or out of Thailand must declare it to Customs officials or be fined up to Bt20,000 (S$817).

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