Thai police identify diesel-smuggling mastermind after boats recaptured

BANGKOK: Police say they have identified the mastermind of a fuel-smuggling operation after three modified fishing boats that escaped with 4-5 million baht in diesel were recaptured on Monday (June 17).

The captain of one boat hid a GPS navigation device under his bunk and used it to lead the two other boats out of police detention in Sattahip, Chonburi, Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) deputy chief Jaroonkiart Pankaew said on Tuesday.

The boats unloaded the contraband fuel in Cambodia, Jaroonkiart said.

The captain then received an order via mobile phone from the Pattani-based boat owner to return to Pattani.

Jaroonkiart identified the suspected owner only as “Boss Jor”, adding that investigators were gathering evidence to seek a warrant for his arrest.

The three fishing boats were among five seized by the coast guard in the Gulf of Thailand with 28 crew members on board on March 17. Most of the crew are Thai nationals.

Three of the boats were found to be loaded with 330,000 litres of diesel smuggled from a neighbouring country to sell cheaply in Thailand. The other two boats were empty.

The five boats were towed to the Sattahip marine police pier in Chonburi. The crew members were freed on bail and allowed to stay on the boats pending legal action.

Police explained that one of the boats carrying diesel appeared to be sinking so they needed the crew to fix it to prevent a fuel spill.

But on June 11, officers guarding the boats allowed them to be moved away, apparently to prevent them from smashing the pier in strong winds. The three boats with diesel fled that night.

They were recaptured in Malaysian waters on Sunday with tanks almost empty and just enough fuel to make it back to port, police said.

The captain confessed that the diesel was unloaded in Cambodia along with seven Cambodian crew members, Jaroonkiart said. Police have detained the recaptured crewmen and are seeking the seven missing Cambodians.

The skipper said the boats were recaptured when one suffered engine failure and the other boats stopped to wait for its repair.

Crew members of the three recaptured boats have been flown to Bangkok and handed over to the Crime Suppression Division.

Jaroonkiart said the CIB will investigate whether Sattahip marine police helped the three boats escape. - The Nation/ANN

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Thailand , police , diesel , smuggling , boats , arrest


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