The arrests of a teacher and his key witness in their high-profile row with a retired policeman over lottery winnings worth Bt30 million (S$1.2 million) appear to settle the question of ownership regarding the disputed tickets.
Teacher Preecha Kraikruan was arrested at his school yesterday as lottery vendor Rattanaporn Supatip was apprehended at her home in Kanchanaburi province.
They face charges of filing a false complaint with police, giving false information to officials and framing another person in a criminal case.
Last November, Preecha lodged a complaint of theft and receiving ill-gotten gains against Pol Lieutenant Charoon Wimul, accusing him of taking possession of lottery tickets the teacher claimed he had bought from Rattanaporn.
Preecha has publicly portrayed himself as a victim for months, producing Rattanaporn and several other people as witnesses.
He claimed he had bought the lottery tickets but accidentally dropped them and Charoon probably found and took them illegitimately.
However, Charoon has consistently denied Preecha's claims. Earlier this month, he submitted a petition in Bangkok to national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda asking for help.
He and his lawyer, Sittra Biabangkerd, expressed concern that local police were taking the teacher's side.
The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) has since taken over the investigation from local police.
Last week, three local policemen were transferred, reportedly for questionable handling of the high-profile case.
Chakthip, CIB chief Lt-General Thitiraj Nhongharnpitak and several senior police officers yesterday held a press conference revealing investigation results.
"At this point, we have found evidence against two suspects [Preecha and Rattanaporn]. Our investigation will expand further to determine who else was involved," Chakthip said.
He added that in a much similar case, the Office of Attorney-General had ruled the tickets belonged to the person who had them in their possession.
"In the event buyers lose their lottery tickets, they must lodge a complaint with police immediately - not after the numbers are already announced as winning," Chakthip said.
He added that a Supreme Court ruling from 1987 also stated clearly that lottery prizes would be awarded to people who produced the winning tickets.
"The Government Lottery Office has also printed on the back of all lottery tickets that prizes will be awarded only to people producing the tickets," Chakthip said.
Charoon would have to prove his ownership in civil proceedings in a separate civil case filed by Preecha, he added.
Speaking at the same press conference, Thitiraj said Charoon had been very reserved in speaking to investigators.
"As for Preecha's side, our careful probe has already found that statements by his witnesses contradicted scientific evidence that CIB police gathered during their investigation," Thitiraj said.
Following their arrests, Preecha and Rattanaporn were brought from Kanchanaburi to Bangkok. They will remain in custody at least until tomorrow, as police have objected to their release on bail. Police also plan to seek court permission to further detain the suspects.
Rattanaporn said yesterday she told the truth and was not worried about the current developments in the case.
Preecha refused to speak to the media when he was brought to Bangkok.