Thai celebrity 'Benz Racing' allegedly linked to Lao drug kingpin

Thai celebrity 'Benz Racing' allegedly linked to Lao drug kingpin
PHOTO: The Nation/Asia News Network

FAMOUS BIG-BIKE racer "Benz Racing", who is married to a well-known actress, is the first celebrity to be exposed as an alleged accomplice in suspected Lao drug kingpin Xaysana Keopimpha's network in Thailand.

Akarakit Worarojcharoendet, who is better known as "Benz Racing", will report himself to police at 3pm today, according to his brother-in-law.

He disappeared from his home on Wednesday night, leaving behind his heavily pregnant wife Napapa "Patt" Tantrakul, who had to deal with the police alone yesterday.

Police suspect that several celebrities in Thailand might have assisted Xaysana with money laundering and asset concealment.

Napapa's elder brother, Anucha Tankrakul, said yesterday that Akarakit had talked to him over the phone and denied any involvement in the drug trade.

"He has proper documents to show to police about the Lamborghini police say belonged to the alleged drug lord," Anucha said.

He said Napapa would accompany Akarakit to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) today. "We believe in his innocence," Anucha said.

Office of Narcotics Control Board secretary-general Sirinya Sittichai yesterday said records showed Akarakit and Nattapon Nakkham, a drug suspect affiliated with Xaysana, had transferred assets back and forth over the past few years. "Akarakit will have to explain how he has amassed his wealth," Sirinya said. "We expect him to contact authorities."

Photo: The Nation/Asia News Network

NSB chief Pol Lt-General Sommai Kongwisaisuk said Akarakit might face charges of drug trafficking and money laundering because there was clear evidence that Nattapon had delivered drugs for Xaysana.

Xaysana and Nattapon are currently in police custody.

Pol Maj-General Pornchai Charoenwong, a deputy chief of the NSB, said the ongoing investigation suggested Xaysana might have bought luxury cars with his ill-gotten gains while some money might have been left with Akarakit.

Police arrested Xaysana on January 19 at Suvarnabhumi Airport on drug charges. During the past few weeks, many suspects affiliated with his network have also been arrested.

Nattapon was caught on Wednesday. Yesterday, police arrested Chaiwat Chusai for allegedly delivering drugs on Nattapon's orders at night, while he was a driver for a hospital during the day. Chaiwat was found to possess 20 kilograms of ketamine, worth about Bt13 million (S$524,000).

Chaiwat said he had only made five deliveries for Nattapon, who paid him Bt800,000 (S$32,000) for the latest delivery.

To date, authorities have seized more than Bt200 million worth of assets related to Xaysana's alleged network. Among the confiscated items were several vehicles, including big motorcycles.

Suspected drug lord linked to Thailand and Laos celebrities

Anti-narcotics officials searched Akarakit's house and car-accessory shop yesterday on suspicion that Xaysana's Lamborghini might have been there. Sommai said police had already interviewed Napapa but did not get much useful information from her and the investigation had not found any link to implicate the actress.

Officials did not find the Lamborghini, which is worth an estimated Bt20 million, at Akarakit's home or business premises during |yesterday's search.

Later yesterday, police received a tip-off about the car's location. "It's in Bangkok and we have already got it. Next, we will examine it in detail to determine whether it has been brought into Thailand legally," a source said.

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