The real Big Joke told a news conference at the Royal Thai Police Office in Bangkok yesterday (May 22) that the imposter was actually taxi driver Paijit Saiya, 40.
Paijit created a Line chat account using Maj Gen Surachet’s photo, and pretended to be him. The suspect first contacted Lt Col Pong-anant Chubram, investigative superintendent in Nakhon Phanom province, in 2014.
He then developed a relationship through the chat application and phone calls with six other police officers, including Col Ukkrit Songchaisa-nguan, deputy commander of Kalasin provincial police.
Before the 2016 police reshuffle, Col Ukkrit paid B1mn to the suspect, asking for a promotion. Pol Col Ukkrit was promoted, but that was based on his proven capabilities, Maj Gen Surachet said.
However, the promotion made the chat line Big Joke credible. Later five other police officers followed suit.
Lt Col Pong-anant gathered B4.21mn in total from the five officers and Col Ukkrit, who wanted another promotion in the 2017 reshuffle. Their payments ranged from B100,000 to B2.5mn each.
The policemen were from the level of a squad leader to a deputy commander.
In the 2017 reshuffle, only Col Ukkrit was promoted – this time to deputy commander of the Kalasin Police. The five others then became suspicious about the chat line Big Joke they had approached and filed complaints with police in Nakhon Phanom province.
Investigators identified the suspect through a bank account he used to accept the bribes, and an arrest warrant was issued in Nakhon Phanom for Paijit on Monday (May 21).
Maj Gen Surachet said Paijit fled the northeastern province and hid in Bangkok. He was arrested at an apartment building on Soi Onnut 46 in Suan Luang district.
The suspect had acted alone and spent the money buying 16-rai of land and taxis he leased out to other drivers, the real Big Joke said.
The policemen involved in the case would be investigated and could face disciplinary action for bribery, which could cost them their jobs, Maj Gen Surachet said.
Paijit said he knew Maj Gen Surachet from news reports and decided to pretend to be the deputy commissioner because of his widely publicised activities. He said the police officers had offered the bribes themselves, he had not asked for them.
The taxi driver was charged with fraud and computer crime.
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