Ex-cop linked to Saudi gems case held in slaying

Officers escort Pansak Mongkolsilp, 62, following his arrest in Rayong on Friday. (Photo by Wassayos Ngamkham

A former police officer linked to the notorious Saudi gems scandal more than two decades ago was arrested on Friday for allegedly killing a petrol station owner in Sa Kaeo.

Pansak Mongkolsilp, 62, was apprehended at a house in Pluak Daeng district of Rayong. His wife Thanaporn Sukkhojai, 50, was also arrested and brought to Crime Suppression Division (CSD) headquarters in Bangkok.

The former police lieutenant-colonel was wanted for the murder of Pracha Worathat, 52, the owner of the Sri Ruangruang petrol station in Muang district of Sa Kaeo.

The incident took place at the victim’s petrol station at about 5am on Sept 30. At least two armed men opened fire with .38 pistols at Pracha and his wife Parida, 49.

Pracha was shot in the head and killed instantly while Mrs Palida was hit four times in the body and seriously wounded. She was rushed to Sa Kaeo Hospital for treatment. Two spent .38 shells were recovered from the scene.

Pol Col Jeeraphop Puridet, the acting CSD chief, had ordered a manhunt for Pansak. He instructed officers to take extra precautions as the suspect was considered highly dangerous.

Police said Pansak confessed during interrogation that he had been hired by a man identified only as Hia Thong for a six-digit sum to shoot Mr Pracha. The suspect claimed he did not open fire, but arranged for two gunmen to do the job, said Pol Col Jeeraphop.

Officers said Pansak told them he had known Hia Thong since his days in the police force. Hia Thong had often lent him money and provided financial assistance when he was on the run from another criminal charge.

Pansak was earlier suspected of involvement in the 2013 murder of a businessman at the Rong Klua market in Aranyaprathet, whose body was burned beyond recognition in a forest in Prachin Buri.

But the former policeman is better known as one of the henchmen of former police commissioner Chalor Kerdthet in the 1990s. Chalor masterminded the 1994 kidnapping and murder of the wife and son of a jeweller who was believed to have had information on the whereabouts of stolen Saudi gems.

The 1989 theft of millions of dollars in jewellery from the home of a Saudi prince by a Thai servant became a bigger scandal when it was revealed that some of the jewels returned to the Saudis were fake. Some of the gems have never been found.

Chalor thought he could press jeweller Santi Srithanakhan to tell what he knew in exchange for the return of his wife and son.

Pansak was part of the kidnap team that held Santi’s wife Darawadee and eight-year-old son Seri for nearly a month in Sa Kaeo while Chalor continued to negotiate with the jeweller.

The talks went nowhere and Chalor finally demanded a ransom from Santi. The latter paid 2.5 million baht and then reported the kidnapping to the authorities.

Fearing exposure, Chalor told Pansak to “get rid of the evidence”. Pansak and two others beat Darawadee and Seri to death and left their bodies in a car.

Pansak was sentenced in 2002 to life in prison. The term was upheld on appeal in 2005 but he was released in 2012.

Video taken from Crime Suppression Division Facebook page.

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