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Court upholds Australian’s death sentence for methamphetamine smuggling

Jack Burton

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Court upholds Australian’s death sentence for methamphetamine smuggling | Thaiger
PHOTO: Luke Joshua Cook and his Thai wife Kanyarat Wediphitak at the time of their arrest - Police photo

On Wednesday the Region 2 Provincial Court of Appeals in Rayong province, near Pattaya, upheld the conviction and death sentence of Australian Luke Joshua Cook, his Thai wife Kanyarat Wediphitak and a Californian man, Tyler Gerard.

All three were arrested in December 2017 on multiple criminal charges, of which the formal accusation was “the failed importation of 500kg of methamphetamine by sea-going transport into the Thai Kingdom using the yacht “Jomandy”.

The yacht was acquired by Cook and Kanyarat from Malaysia using their unlicensed boat importation business “Global Marine Solution”, which according to police was specifically for unlawful operations funded by deceased senior Hells Angels member Wayne Rodney Schneider.

According to the Court during May and June 2015, Cook and Gerard took the Jomandy from a marina near Pattaya City to rendezvous with a Chinese vessel in international waters, where the drugs were loaded onto the yacht. En route back to the marina, navy vessels on routine patrol approached them and they dumped the cargo overboard. It eventually washed ashore where it was discovered by locals.

The plan was reportedly to store the narcotics temporarily in Thailand while a custom keel was built for the Jomandy where the drugs were to be concealed while yacht sailed to Australia.

In December 2015, Cook and Gerard were arrested and pleaded guilty to the abduction, death and burial of Schneider which dominated local Pattaya press at the time.

The video below shows a press conference held after the arrests;

A man named Antonio Bagnato was also arrested, but he denied the charges and was ultimately sentenced to three years for assault, after a successful appeal against the death sentence issued by a lower court.

 

Court upholds Australian's death sentence for methamphetamine smuggling | News by Thaiger

PHOTO: Hells Angels gang member Wayne Schneider – news.com.au

The Court of Appeals handed down the decision on Wednesday based on evidence and witness testimonies such as that given by the man who purchased the Jomandy from Cook, for substantially less than what Cook paid – suspicious, since Cook was in the business of importing used boats into Thailand for a profit, not a loss. Additionally, Cook and the two accused denied any wrongdoing with no credible evidence to support their defense and claimed they had been framed by two of the prosecution witnesses, one of whom they claimed had rented the Jomandy from Cook and undertaken the failed meth importation.

This was deemed impossible by the court as witness was shown by foreign and Thai authorities to have been in another country when the crime was committed. Court officials said this confirmed that the accused knew of the crime and were attempting to frame someone else.

Bagnato, Cook and his wife are currently in a Thai prison awaiting a trial date for charges relating to illegal firearms, one military grade, discovered in police raids after Schneider’s body was discovered.

All three have denied the firearms charges, but investigators say Cook and his wife will likely be convicted as the firearms were found in his hotel room and a rental vehicle whose keys he possessed when arrested in December 2015.

Senior Thai officials gone on record calling Cook and his wife con artists and compulsive liars, citing the couple’s claim that they never had any dealings or contact with the Hells Angels. A Facebook conversation from Cook’s smartphone with his wife where they together reference Hells Angels members arrested by Pol Lt Gen Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn.

The cell phone video was provided to The Pattaya News from a source at the Region 2 Police.

SOURCE: This story is an exclusive of The Pattaya News

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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Immigration police arrest Frenchman on drug charges, 3 other foreigners for overstay

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Immigration police arrest Frenchman on drug charges, 3 other foreigners for overstay | Thaiger

Immigration police arrested a French man who was allegedly involved in a crime network who allegedly smuggled cannabis, and arrested 3 other foreigners on overstay charges. Police say the crime network sold cannabis to foreigners living in tourist cities in Thailand.

Officers say they suspect there are more people involved in the alleged smuggling operation on the Eastern seaboard, which includes Chon Buri and Rayong. Police are now launching an investigation.

Police were tipped off earlier this year about an alleged French gang selling cannabis to tourists. Apparently, the drug suspects would rent rooms to store the cannabis and frequently change locations. Foreigners had rented a room off a soi in Bangkok, but the manager noticed they were acting suspicious. No one appeared to actually be living in the room and people would stop by the room for less than an hour, the manager told police.

Police arrested a man who was stopping by the room. Officers say the 28 year old, identified as Samy, had a suitcase filled with dried cannabis and scales. He faces charges for possession and distribution of a Category 5 narcotic.

The police went to the man’s apartment in the Charoen Nakhon area and arrested 2 French nationals, ages 27 and 28, and a 29 year old woman from the UK for overstaying their visas. Police say they had thrown cannabis and smoking equipment out the window before officers entered the room.

SOURCE: Thai Visa

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Thailand hoping to be upgraded to a Tier 1 nation in anti-human trafficking efforts

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Thailand hoping to be upgraded to a Tier 1 nation in anti-human trafficking efforts | Thaiger
Stock photo via Flickr

Thailand is hoping its newest anti-human trafficking report will earn an upgrade from the US from Tier 2 to Tier 1. The report was submitted to the Washington’s Trafficking in Persons Report. Deputy government spokeswoman, Rachada Dhnadirek, said the government is ready to be upgraded after remaining on Tier 2 for 3 years in a row. Those nations who fall on the Tier 2, are deemed to not be fully complying with the minimum standards set out in the US’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Those on the Tier 2, however, are supposed to be making efforts to comply with the minimum standards.

Before 2018, Thailand was placed in Tier 3, which is for nations who don’t fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making efforts to do so. Then, Thailand was upgraded to Tier 2 after making progress compared to the previous year.

Rachada says Thailand submitted the 2020 TIP Report on February 2 and a report on progress in its anti-human trafficking operations from January to March of this year to the US embassy on April 3. The data includes the number of arrests and punishments for human-trafficking offences. Thailand also has created a new plan, making it the first in Asia to introduce such a plan. That plan is called the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.

Rachada says now Thailand is processing human trafficking cases more quickly by shortening the investigation time to 70 days as of last year. In 2015, the investigation time was 118 days. She says the country has also set up centres to help LGBT human-trafficking victims as well as helping migrant workers with work-related issues.

Thailand has also introduced the PROTECT-U app for smartphones in which human-trafficking victims can access protection and launch complaints in 7 different languages. The app was developed by the Social Development and Human Security Ministry.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Phuket man shot by off-duty police officer now paralysed

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Phuket man shot by off-duty police officer now paralysed | Thaiger
Phuket Police Station / Google Maps

A 25 year old Phuket man who was allegedly beaten and shot by an off-duty, drunken police officer, will never walk again as he remains paralysed in the hospital. The news, according to doctors at Vachira Phuket Hospital, comes after Aroon Thongplab, was shot from a close range, with the bullet hitting his spine.

The man was a noodle vendor and was collecting a bowl from a customer on Bangla Road when he was allegedly shot by Pornthep Channarong of the Phuket Provincial Police at around 6am. Doctors told his wife about his prognosis after he woke up from a coma and underwent surgery to increase his prospects of being able to sit up. His wife, who is only known by her surname as Kulthida, told The Phuket News that she received news that he would never walk again.

“He cannot feel or move the lower part from his waist. Doctors just gave him spine surgery last week, so that he can sit. However, the doctors cannot assure that the surgery will work. We have to wait to see if his recovery goes well along with physiotherapy.”

Pornthep was discharged from the Royal Thai Police less than a day after he allegedly shot the noodle vendor. Now, he is facing charges of attempted murder, firing a weapon in a public area, and carrying a firearm in a public area without a necessary reason. But those charges have come slowly, according to Kulthida.

“I have already asked Patong Police, and they told me that at this stage the report to file (with the public prosecutor) is about 90% complete. I am also waiting for a notice from the court. Today, officers from Region 8 Police came to the hospital to question Aroon, but he has not been able to speak… I asked them about the bail conditions, and they told me that the suspect is still in jail.”

The Phuket Provincial Court is allowing Pornthep to go out on bail, despite the Royal Thai Police asking the court to keep in locked up.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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