Police investigators are preparing to summon him to acknowledge the new charge next Wednesday (Mar 14), deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said yesterday (Mar 8), adding officers will use witnesses' accounts to back up the charge.
He played down Premchai’s plan to leave Thailand today (Mar 9) as he is not banned from travelling overseas following his temporary release on bail granted by Thong Pha Phum Provincial Court on Feb 6.
The 63-year-old president of Italian-Thai Development, along with three companions, was arrested on the night of Feb 4 at their campsite in Thungyai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary, a world heritage forest in Kanchanaburi.
Wildlife officials, who believed they went hunting there, found carcasses of protected species, and the pelt of a rare black leopard. Near their tent they found a cooking pot containing soup.
It was later confirmed to be black leopard soup. Examination of a chopping block and knives in the camp also discovered traces of the animal’s DNA.
The evidence, together with subsequent raids on his mansion in Bangkok for illegal items, implicated him and the other three suspects on nine charges of wrongdoing, mostly related to unauthorised hunting in the wildlife refuge.
A complaint against Premchai over the alleged bribery was filed by Thungyai Naresuan sanctuary chief, Wichian Chinnawong, who led the Feb 4 operation.
He told police on Wednesday his team took the four suspects and the carcasses out of their camp and temporarily held them at a building, which serves as an exhibition and service area for tourists.
During the detention, Premchai allegedly told Mr Wichian: “If you release me, I’ll give you anything you want,” deputy Counter Corruption Division chief Col Watcharin Phusit said, referring to accounts given by officials in the arrest team.
“That sentence was an attempt to bribe state officials,” he said.
The conversation emerged at a time when eight people, including the suspects and the officials, were in the building. The voice was clearly heard and the light was sufficient to make it clear who was talking, Col Watcharin said.
An audio clip earlier obtained by the media contained dialogue between Yong Dodkhruea, one of the four suspects, and Kitti Sawatsai who is in Mr Wichian’s team, but the conversation was not about bribery, he said.
Mr Kitti was the first to spot Premchai’s group in the forest.
Pol Gen Srivara said Premchai can continue his trip abroad, but he will have to report to police on Wednesday (Mar 14).
The suspect can ask to postpone the meeting or he will receive a second summons, the last one before police will ask the court to issue an arrest warrant.
Premchai reportedly had informed immigration police he would fly to Bangladesh tomorrow (Mar 10) in his personal jet and return to Thailand on Sunday.
Mr Srivara said police will also press another two charges – illegal possession of guns and four African elephant tusks – against Premchai on Wednesday.
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