Senior policeman with links to Thai royal family jailed

BANGKOK – Thailand's former second highest ranking police commander was jailed for six years Friday for his involvement in illegal casino operations and insulting the monarchy, local media reported.

Pongpat Chayapan, who is the uncle of the wife of the crown prince, had a 12-year prison term halved after he admitted the offenses.

His deputy at the Central Investigation Bureau, Kowit Wongroongroj, received a similar sentence at the Bangkok Criminal Court.

The pair also pleaded guilty to other charges including extorting money from police officers in exchange for promotions and collecting bribes from oil smugglers, the Bangkok Post said.

The case is one of three that has seen a total of six police officials indicted in the country’s largest corruption scandal.

Pongpat was arrested in November for extortion, racketeering, corruption and lese-majeste, an offense of abusing or insulting the Thai royal family that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

After his arrest, police seized assets worth $311 million from several houses, including thousands of precious Buddhist images and amulets, land titles, large quantities of jewelry, millions in cash and enough luxury wood to fill up 60 trucks.

The military government then ordered a reshuffle – the largest in Thai history - of the police unit under his command, with almost 300 officers moved to different divisions or inactive posts.

Pongpat's neice is Srirasmi, who relinquished her royal status in December after her family’s royal surname was revoked following his arrest.

According to statements from court officials, the lese-majeste charges stemmed from Pongpat using his royal connections to intimidate business partners and competitors.

Despite widespread corruption in Thailand’s police force, an officer as high-ranking as Pongpat had never been previously arrested, the Post said.

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