POLICE HAVE decided to re-examine the 1988 case of Pol Lt-Colonel Banyin Tangpakorn's ex-wife as she is believed to have died in circumstances very similar to those of construction tycoon Chuwong Saetang.
Chuwong's family suspect foul play. Banyin, a former deputy commerce minister and ex-MP, claims Chuwong was killed in a road accident, though Banyin himself did not sustain any injuries after the car crash.
Soon after Chuwong's death on June 26, his family discovered that a large number of his shares had been suspiciously transferred to two women. The recipients of the shares, which were worth nearly Bt300 million, yesterday contacted the police through their lawyers.
"We will look into the case involving Banyin's ex-wife, who died in 1988, because there are some similarities with what happened to Chuwong," deputy Metropolitan Police chief Pol Maj-General Chanthep Sesawet said. He added that police would also consult experts on why the airbags were not functioning during the accident.
The spotlight has been focused on Banyin since Chuwong's family raised doubts last week. Though he has already been charged with reckless driving that caused death, Banyin may find himself in more trouble if an ongoing investigation reveals foul play.
Anek Khamchum, the lawyer representing Chuwong's family, said yesterday that the family found it strange that Banyin remained in the driver's seat and was conscious as Chuwong lay dead beside him in the front passenger seat.
"When Chuwong's wife arrived at the accident scene, Banyin was still sitting inside the car, even though he had called the police to report the accident 20 minutes earlier," Anek said.
Chuwong's family's lawyer has also asked for a thorough investigation into the transfer of shares worth Bt228 million to a good-looking golf caddie and shares worth more than Bt40 million to the mother of a female broker.
"Chuwong's secretary and staff insist that the signatures on the share transfer documents are not his [Chuwong's]," Anek said.
Meanwhile, a source said the caddie had claimed that she was pregnant and ill, hence unable to report to police. The broker and her mother have said they should be able to report to police by Monday.
An informed source said that police had already interrogated four prominent figures who had played golf with Chuwong and Banyin on June 26, the day of the deadly crash.
"There were no suspicious points in their statements," the source said. "Two of the individuals said they saw Banyin and Chuwong get into a car together."
Separately, Chuwong's driver, Boonterm Nampanya, said he had gone to the golf club on June 26 to deliver his boss's golf clubs and a bag of clean clothes, but he did not meet Chuwong. Instead, he said, a |caddie took the golf clubs from him |and Banyin took the bag of clothes |and told him to return.
"After I left, Chuwong called to ask about his clothes, so I told him that I had given the bag to Banyin," Boonterm said.
Banyin allegedly offered Chuwong a ride home later.
The source added that police now planned to check recordings from security cameras along the motorway for additional evidence.
"For instance, police want to see if they can locate the vehicle that Banyin blames for the accident," the source added.
Banyin claims that the accident took place when he tried to swerve away from a vehicle that had suddenly cut in front. Police spokesman Pol Lt-General Prawut Thavornsiri said it would take a while to examine all the evidence and question all the witnesses.
However, Colonel Nitis Boonjarern, superintendent of Udomsuk Police Station, said the investigation was already more than 80-per-cent complete. "We just need to question some more people," he said.
Nitis said he expected the investigators to come up with a conclusion on the case no later than Friday.
A source revealed that police had already located three people who had witnessed the accident, adding that one of them was a motorcyclist who had seen Banyin's car moving at high speed and hitting a tree. This witness later returned with two rescue workers.
"All three of them said Banyin appeared to be unconscious when they arrived at the scene," the source said.