Court upholds 10-year jail for 'Pacquiao of Thailand'

PHOTO: Pixabay

The Appeals Court yesterday upheld a 10-year jail sentence for the former president of Police United football club for using fake promissory notes to secure Bt2 billion (S$85 million) in loans from the Welfare Promotion Commission for Teachers and Educational Personnel (OTEP).

Samrit Bunditkritsada, 44, who has been in detention since his arrest in 2016, showed no emotion as the court read its verdict yesterday. In his golden years, Samrit was widely dubbed "Pacquiao of Thailand" for his striking resemblance to Filipino boxer-turned senator Manny Pacquiao.

But he fell in bad times after news broke that his firm, Billion Innovated Group, had pledged fake promissory notes with a face value of Bt3.2 billion as guarantee with the OTEP for borrowings of Bt2 billion from the agency. The crime was committed between December 21, 2013 and July 21, 2014.

Samrit, and Billion Innovated Group, with whom he served as an executive director, were both sued for fraud.

Their wrongdoing was detected during OTEP's internal audit. After finding that the documents backing Billion Innovated Group's loan application were fake, OTEP took legal action against the firm and Samrit.

The defendant pleaded innocence, claiming he had resigned as executive director of Billion Innovated Group before the crimes were committed.

The court, however, found his claims unconvincing as the firm had transferred Bt40 million to Samrit's bank account after the OTEP had granted the loan. Records also showed that Samrit had withdrawn Bt120 million from the company's bank account. On top of that, Samrit was a witness and guarantor for Billion Innovated Group when the loan agreement was signed.

Last year, the Criminal Court convicted Samrit and handed down a 10-year jail term. The Appeals Court yesterday upheld the lower court's verdict.