Dead Thai billionaire tycoon's kin seek probe

Dead Thai billionaire tycoon's kin seek probe
Wife and relatives of billionaire Chuwong Saetang, who died in a road accident in Bangkok in late June, file a complaint with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday via Government House.
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

The family of billionaire businessman Chuwong Saetang is pushing hard for a transparent and thorough investigation into his death.

Chuwong was found dead inside a car on June 26 in what its driver Pol Lt-Colonel Banyin Tangpakorn, a former deputy commerce minister, said was a road accident. Banyin, who has been charged with reckless driving that caused death, may land in bigger trouble if an investigation reveals any foul play.

After Chuwong's family publicly raised doubts about his death, Banyin quickly sought a meeting with national police commissioner General Somyot Poompanmuang to insist that he had no reason to wish for Chuwong's death because they were business partners.

"His death is a loss to me," said Banyin, who is also a former MP.

The victim's family has expressed doubts, particularly in light of the fact that a huge volume of shares owned by Chuwong - worth no less than Bt200 million - were suspiciously transferred to two women just days before his death.

"The transfer happened without our prior knowledge. This is very strange. My younger brother had always consulted his family before conducting any share transactions," Chuwong's elder sister Wanpen Thanathamsiri said at a press conference yesterday.

Also present at the press conference were Chuwong's son Kan and their lawyer Anek Khamchum.

The lawyer said he had traced the movement of transferred shares further and found that the recipients had already sold a sizeable portion of the shares.

"This is also suspicious given that share prices have been falling lately," he said.

Kan said on June 26 that he had immediately rushed to the "accident scene" and found that his father's lifeless body was already cold while Banyin was unhurt.

"I can't help having doubts," he said.

After the press conference, Kan headed to the government's complaint-receiving centre under the care of the Office of the Prime Minister and submitted a petition addressed to Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha seeking his help in finding out the truth.

"Is it really an accident or is it an action by someone who wanted his assets?" a part of the complaint says.

According to the petition, Banyin said he and Chuwong left a golf course together at about 7pm on June 26 but the car was involved in an accident before he could get Chuwong home.

Kan said: "The accident spot is just 30 kilometres from the golf course. But my family was informed of the accident at about 10pm. Why did it take so long for the car to arrive at that spot?

"When I arrived at the scene, Banyin was still in the driver's seat with his safety belt on, and later rescue workers arrived."

A police source said Chuwong and Banyin were seen at a golf course together on June 26 and the two did not seem to have any quarrel. Recordings from a security camera near the scene of the reported accident showed their car move past at about 9.57pm.

An autopsy showed that Chuwong died of bleeding inside his brain that was a result of impact from a hard object. According to the autopsy results, Chuwong had also sustained many bone cracks.

Banyin yesterday said Chuwong did not have a safety belt on at the time of the accident. He also said Chuwong wished to hide some of his personal assets - something that his family did not know about.

"I know the two women who have received the shares from him and they were well known to Chuwong," he said. He did not say directly how close Chuwong and the two women were.

Metropolitan police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul vowed to ensure justice to all sides and disclosed that he had now assigned his deputy, Pol Maj-General Charnthep Sesavej, to oversee the investigation.

Charnthep said he would have a joint meeting with local police today in a bid to solve this case.

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