[The Nation]FOUR BANGKOK-BASED policemen have been suspended for allegedly extorting Bt2 million from two Italian tourists after making a false allegation against the victims and holding them captive.
Arrest warrants have been issued for two of the officers, who were on the run at the time of going to press.
An Uzbek national, who allegedly assisted in the crimes, was arrested late evening.
While it may sound like another instance of police misconduct well familiar to Thais and foreigners alike, this case has resulted in immediate action by their superiors and abrupt suspension of the four police suspects, thanks to an Interpol inquiry conducted after the victims’ families lodged a complaint.
The case therefore potentially brings shame upon the entire police force, due to its global exposure.
Arrest warrants have been issued for Police Lieutenants Wirat Inyord and Akkhranet Muthawan of Lumpini station, deputy Bangkok police chief Maj-General Parinya Jansuriya said yesterday.
The fugitive Uzbek suspect, likely acting as the interpreter in the extortion scam, has been identified as Muhiddin Sharipov.
The two other police officers allegedly involved in the extortion – Senior Sgt-Major Sathit Jansome and Sgt-Major Phoorithat Cheunjampa, both of Thong Lor station – have been placed in custody after their requests for temporary release on bail were rejected yesterday by Bangkok South Criminal Court.
The five suspects have been charged with armed robbery, armed kidnapping and armed extortion.
Their mug shots were made public at a police conference yesterday, at which Parinya said border checkpoints and immigration offices at airports and seaports had been alerted over their possible departure.
The two tourists – architect Danillo de Vito and engineer Antonio de Muro – were not harmed during their one-day captivity, which began on Monday night after the four officers approached them while they were withdrawing money from an ATM machine near the Racha Nana hotel, where they were staying.
A police source said there was also a police major present at Lumpini police station, who assisted in negotiations that the two tourists would be released if they gave Bt2 million to him and the five suspects, in return for them not being further charged with using a false ATM card.
In their statement to Interpol, the two victims said the ATM card they were using was authentic, but the suspects had threatened them using the false allegation that it was a fake.
During the talks at Lumpini police station, the two successfully bargained for the amount to be reduced to 25,000 euro (about Bt1 million), before they were briefly held further at a Bangkok motel, where a surveillance camera captured them going in and out together with the five suspects.
The victims were then escorted on Tuesday to withdraw money at a Barclays Bank branch in the All Seasons building, which they later transferred to two bank accounts registered under the names of Nana Racha hotel staff.
Parinya said a total of 1,500 euro had initially been transferred to the accounts.
During a phone call home by the victims, they told their families in Italy what had happened.
The victims’ families later asked for help from Italian police, who forwarded the complaint to Interpol, police said at the press conference.