Thai police chief denies involvement in online gambling scandal

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Police General Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn, Deputy National Police Chief, yesterday refuted allegations of his involvement with online gambling networks. Despite the rumours that have been swirling since early this week, Big Joke clarified that no formal charges have been brought against him following the widely publicised house search conducted last year. Furthermore, he noted that only eight individuals, some of whom are his subordinates, have had their cases forwarded to prosecutors.

Addressing speculations of a potential investigation against him and four others by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), Big Joke confirmed that while a complaint has indeed been lodged with the anti-graft agency, no proceedings have been initiated against those implicated in the report. He outlined that if the NACC decides to consider the case, it would first need to initiate an inquiry to determine the feasibility of pressing charges.

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Deputy Commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) Police Major General Charoonkiat Pankaew revealed during a press conference on Wednesday, February 21, that Big Joke and four others were under investigation, possibly facing multiple charges about the online gambling network run by “Minnie” Suchanun Sucharitchinsri. The charges could potentially include malfeasance and accepting bribes, which contravene sections 157 and 149 of the Criminal Code, reported Bangkok Post.

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Pol. Maj. Gen Charoonkiat stated that the NACC was handling the investigation due to the involvement of high-ranking police officers. However, he suggested that police involvement would be beneficial given the large suspect count, currently standing at 61. Big Joke strongly criticised this call for the NACC to pass the investigation to the police.

“Who are you to pressure the NACC? This is clearly overstepping the mark.”

Big Joke also highlighted that his role did not encompass the suppression of online gambling websites, hence he had no involvement with their illicit operations, including the receipt of kickbacks. He hinted at the potential for the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to step in, should the total value of laundered assets exceed 300 million baht (US$8.35 million).

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Financial transactions

Despite Big Joke’s objections, Pol. Maj. Gen. Charoonkiat maintained that there was no pressure on the NACC to relinquish the investigation to the police, but he believed that the police could expedite the investigation given their previous involvement in a related case.

Discussing the progress of the probe into financial transactions linked to the gambling network, the CIB Deputy Chief confirmed that investigators have gathered evidence to substantiate allegations against the suspects.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin weighed in on the controversy, stating that Big Joke is innocent until proven guilty and deserves the opportunity to defend himself. He declined to comment on whether the issue was an attempt to tarnish Big Joke’s reputation and jeopardise his potential appointment as police chief.

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