Conflict over betting debt possible motive in killing of night-club tycoon

Conflict over betting debt possible motive in killing of night-club tycoon
PHOTO: The Nation/Asia News Network

FORMER night-entertainment tycoon Somyot Suthangkool was shot dead late Monday evening in a motive police said stemmed from a Bt4-million (S$160,000) gambling debt four poker players owed him.

The controversial Somyot was the former owner of the once-well-known Rama IX Cafe.

Police are looking at three other motives behind the crime: His line of work as the owner of a lawyer's office; a Bt25-million debt collection that he was handling; and conflict over the purchase of a plot of land on which Rama IX Cafe was located. Police found these clues from Somyot's personal notebook, which is being analysed by the investigators.

A police source said that Somyot, 62, had received a death treat from one of the four players, after Somyot found out that they were cheating him in a game. He demanded that they return Bt4 million to him or in return give him a land ownership document worth close to Bt4 million. The source said that Somyot had allegedly threatened to harm all the four.

The police source revealed that Somyot allegedly had one of the four - a man referred to as L - abducted. L reportedly went missing late last week, after he met with a former military officer allegedly hired by Somyot. In reaction, another person from the four - a woman referred to as K - allegedly demanded that Somyot release L, or she would have him killed, the source explained.

The poker game involved two other players - R and P, a woman and a man - and was played in the Pathum Thani home of one of the four. Somyot realised later that the four had allegedly set up the game to conspire to beat him, and got around Bt4 million from him.

Police yesterday apprehended K, 48, for questioning. She reportedly told police that she had known Somyot for more than 20 years. She told the police that she had recently given L - her common-law husband - Bt1 million, to spend on gambling and he had lost it all. The amount was reportedly given to her by Somyot for use in legal lobbying work,

K told police that she had later confessed to Somyot about giving Bt1 million to L, and that the poker game was set up to rip him off. She said Somyot was furious and ordered her to return to him Bt4 million and another amount totalling Bt28 million. After L refused to give Somyot any money, Somyot allegedly threatened to abduct him and L reportedly went missing around June 26-27.

According to another hearsay account, another police source said that R was overheard threatening to kill Somyot after Somyot had threatened to harm the four, before L went missing.

Police have obtained a sketch of the gunman, a man reportedly around 175 centimetres tall, seen by witnesses at a shark-fin soup shop in the Phatthanakarn area. When questioned, the guman said he was waiting for his boss.

Somyot's wife, Rassamee, revealed that Somyot kept his notebook with himself all the time. She said she was in the driver's seat, waiting for him in her car outside the shark fin shop, when she heard three gunshots, and saw Somyot collapse.

One bullet hit him in the head and another in the left shoulder. Somyot's daughter Natthida said her father had recently told her to retrieve a large number of personal belongings from several locations, which she had forgotten.

She said she was not aware of him having any enemy and Somyot usually travelled alone and did not carry a handgun.

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