Malaysian linked to Laos drug lord arrested

PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

THAI POLICE have contacted their Malaysian counterparts, requesting permission to interrogate a Malaysian drug suspect to probe his possible link to Xaysana Keopimpha's alleged drug network.

Kamarudin bin Awang was arrested in Malaysia's Kelantan State on Monday, weeks after Thai police had nabbed Xaysana - a high-profile Laotian - at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

"We have already contacted Malaysian police," Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) chief Pol Lt-General Sommai Kongwisaisuk said yesterday.

He described Kamarudin as a man who had allegedly facilitated drug flows from Thailand's North to Malaysia for years.

"I've heard that at the time of his arrest, more than Bt30 million (S$1.2 million) cash was found, hidden in PVC pipes," he added.

Sommai said there were grounds to believe both Kamarudin and Xaysana might have been drug lords.

Read also: Suspected drug lord linked to Thailand and Laos celebrities

Suspected drug lord linked to Thailand and Laos celebrities

  • Xaysana Keopimpha, an alleged drug warlord from Laos was arrested in Bangkok on January 19 after police were tipped off that he and three other people were flying in from Phuket.
  • According to Thai police, his network has cultivated unprecedented connections, with celebrities both in Thailand and Laos believed to have assisted him with money laundering and asset concealment.
  • “He had portrayed himself as a rich man from Laos. When he came here, he threw parties inviting entertainment figures and celebrities from many other fields of Thailand as guests. After the ties developed, he used them for money laundering,” said police.
  • His Facebook account shows only sporadic activity, with his latest post being an update of his profile photo on December 19.
  • But a few photos show selfies taken with luxury cars such as Lamborghinis and Mercedes-Benzes, which appear to have been taken at his house in Laos.
  • Xaysana, known in Laos as Hia Lop, was born in Khammouane province of Laos, opposite Nakhon Phanom’s Ta Uten district in Thailand.
  • Social network users have been accustomed to seeing photos of Xaysana posing with the country’s celebrities and young family members of politicians.
  • Famous Thai bike racer “Benz Racing”, who is married to a well-known actress, is the first celebrity to be exposed as an alleged accomplice in Xaysana’s network in Thailand.
  • Akarakit Worarojcharoendet, who is better known as “Benz Racing”, is married to Thai actress Napapa “Patt” Tantrakul, who is pregnant.
  • 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.
  • Akarakit Worarojcharoendet reported himself to police at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) at 3.30pm Friday. Accompanying him was his mother and a lawyer.

NSB deputy chief Pol Maj-General Pornchai Charoenwong said his agency was now busy listing assets linked to Xaysana.

"We expect to complete the list by February 10," he said.

He added that relevant authorities would then discuss financial probes next week.

Xaysana - who had long portrayed himself as a rich and well-connected man from Laos - is reported to have owned hundreds of super-cars.

Photo: The Nation/ANN

Akarakit "Benz Racing" Woraroj-charoendet, a famous motorcycle racer, became the first Thai celebrity to be linked to Xaysana because of a Lamborghini Gallardo SuperLeggera that he flaunted.

Akarakit often posed for photos with the luxury car. He claimed he owned it but Nattapon Nakkam, who was arrested earlier this month for allegedly facilitating Xaysana's drug trade in Thailand, has told police he bought the vehicle in Akarakit's name.

Police have suggested the possibility that many prominent Thai figures assisted Xaysana with money laundering and asset concealment.

According to Sommai, at least three super-cars linked to Akarakit and Nattapon are now in police custody pending further investigation. Each of them is worth about Bt20 million.

Pol Maj-General Chatree Paisansilp, a deputy chief of the NSB, said Akarakit would be summoned for questioning again next week.

"He's now a suspect," Chatree said.

Read also: Thai celebrity biker denies link to Lao drug lord

Last Friday, Akarakit turned himself in to the NSB, claiming he did not know Xaysana and had simply borrowed Bt6 million from Nattapon to buy the Lamborghini.

At this point, police do not think Akarakit has sufficient evidence to support his claim.

Photo: The Nation/ANN

Nattawat Huangmanee - the owner of the Buono Auto Clinic where the Lamborghini was sold - told police yesterday that the super-car initially belonged to a financial institution.

He declined to answer a media question as to whether he knew Akarakit and Nattapon.

Sommai disclosed that the ongoing investigation had already expanded to about 20 luxury cars on the Lao side as well.

"We have already requested information on these vehicles from Laos, as we suspect that they might have been linked to Xaysana," he said.

Thai authorities have firmly dismissed rumours that Laos had demanded the release of Xaysana.

Deputy national police Commissioner Pol General Rungroj Sangkram, meanwhile, said a fact-finding committee was trying to gather evidence on the allegation that Pol Captain Pattarapon Thuaythong, a deputy inspector at Suvarnabhumi Airport's checkpoint, had special ties with Xaysana.

"We will announce the probe results to the public, too," Rungroj said.

An informed source said that Pattarapon always greeted Xaysana at the airport and kept a car key for the Laotian.

"If he is found guilty, he will face both disciplinary and criminal action," Rungroj said.

Read also: Alleged Lao drug lord's Facebook account depicts luxury lifestyle

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