Huge casino in Phuket proves hard to find
PHUKET: Police visited three venues owned by Phuket’s Tiger Group on March 29 after maverick Bangkok politician Chuwit Kamolvisit accused Tiger of running the largest illegal casino in the South.
Friday 30 March 2012, 04:57PM
This casino, he alleged, has a daily turnover of more than B100 million, and police and other officials were bribed with daily payments to leave the place unmolested.
Another casino, called “Thung Thong” was being run elsewhere in Phuket, he said.
But yesterday the Kathu police, led by Kathu Police Superintendent Arayapan Pukbuakhao – who invited journalists along for today’s inspections – found nothing.
The first stop was at Tiger Bar on Bangla Rd, a three-storey complex with bar beers on the ground floor. The remaining two floors are currently undergoing construction of a discotheque and staff accommodation.
The second site was Tiger Discotheque on Bangla Rd, which also features bar beers and what is claimed to be Phuket’s biggest disco, while the third was the 60-room Bangkok Residence Hotel on Soi Sansabai.
Police did note that the hotel has a snooker zone and a pub on the second floor. But no casino.
After the inspection, the officers were convinced that Mr Chuwit’s casino was a myth.
This afternoon Piya Itsaramalai, President Chairman of the Tiger Group, Pol Maj Gen Pisan Chuldilok, Deputy Commissioner of Police Region 8, and Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Chonasit Wattanavrangku held a joint press conference.
Mr Piya flatly denied Mr Chuwit’s allegation. He said that he had been running his business for around 13 years and still owed money to banks – so it was plain that he was not getting huge amounts of money from a casino.
He said that Mr Chuwit was welcome to come to Phuket to check Tiger's activities for himself.
He urged Mr Chuwit to stop making accusations because this was affecting his business, in particular his relationships with creditor banks.
He added that he had instructed the company’s legal counsel to collect information on Mr Chuwit’s accusations, with the possibility of bringing a lawsuit against him.
The Tiger Group Legal Counsel, Thamrongsak Boonrak, said the group felt it was unfair and one-sided of Channel 3 TV to air Mr Chuwit’s views only. “They should invite us to give our side of the story.” he said.
He added, “I believe this story will end up in the courts.” Gen Pisan said that police in Phuket have been working for a long time to keep Phuket free of gambling.
“As long as I am working in Region 8, Phuket will have no casinos. If I find any police officers taking bribe from casinos, I will take action against them.”
Gen Chonasit added, “Since I arrived here in Phuket we have made 798 arrests in 252 gambling cases. From these figures you will see that we are working hard against gambling on the island.”
In his latest shot from the hip, Mr Chuwit also said that “Russian Mafiya” are operating on a large scale on the island.
The Bangkok Post and other newspapers quoted him yesterday as saying that a Russian gang called “Spachiba” was using Phuket to launder black money by “encroaching on national forests and investing in luxury housing estates and five-star hotels”.
He said that land and administrative officials, along with police officers, were involved.
Told about Mr Chuwit’s comments, Phuket-based publisher and media figure Evgeny Parfenov branded them as ‘BS’.
“It’s not the first time I’ve heard stuff like this,” he said. “I even heard that Russian mafiya had tried to take over drug trafficking in Patong and that eight of them were killed on Patong Beach by Thai gangsters.
“It never happened. It was all lies.
“Sorry, but this is BS. Mr Chuwit is just trying to get publicity.”