French ‘mafia’ boss extorts money from foreigners in Pattaya, claims ties with Big Joke

Police arrested a wanted French ‘mafia’ boss in Bangkok on Tuesday after a group of farangs in Pattaya, eastern Thailand, claimed he extorted money from them in exchange for police protection. The fraudster claimed to have ties with “Big Joke.”

Yesterday, high-profile police officer Pol. Lt. Gen. Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn revealed that police arrested 58 year old Herve Christian Robert Leonard of French nationality – wanted on several arrest warrants – at a condominium in the Lat Phrao area of Bangkok.

A group of foreigners in Pattaya complained that Leonard extorted money from them by claiming to have connections with influential Thai police officers, including Big Joke. The Thai police would protect the foreigners in exchange, claimed the fraudster.

To substantiate his claims, Leonard showed foreigners pictures of him with Thai police, and driving a Tourist Police car, from when he worked as a volunteer to help Thai police.

Police previously arrested Leonard on charges of fraud and extortion and he was released on bail pending court proceedings. However, when the trial came around, Leonard didn’t turn up to the court.

There were five fraud-related warrants out for Leonard’s arrest…

On July 27, 2021, Pattaya District Court issued an arrest warrant for Leonard under suspicion of, “property fraud.”

On November 26, 2021, Pattaya Provincial Court issued a warrant for Leonard’s arrest under suspicion of, “joint fraud and extortion.”

On February 18, 2022, Pattaya District Court issued a second arrest warrant for Leonard under suspicion of, “fraud.”

On February 25, 2022, Pattaya District Court issued a third warrant for Leonard’s arrest under suspicion of “fraud.”

On May 18, 2022, Pattaya Kwaeng Court issued an arrest warrant for Leonard under suspicion of, “fraud and coercion of others to do things they are unwilling to do in fear there will be a danger to their life, body, liberty or reputation or property until the coerced person agrees.”

Interpol issued a ‘blue notice’ for Leonard after foreigners in Pattaya said he extorted them and claimed to have connections with several high-profile police officers.

However, it took police four months to finally arrest Leonard because he kept relocating every two or three weeks to different areas of Pattaya, Hua Hin and Bangkok, using a fake identity to rent properties and escape arrest.

Upon his arrest on Tuesday, police found that Leonard was also illegally residing in the kingdom. Leonard’s visa expired on September 15, 2020, overstaying by 868 days.

Big Joke said the case has a huge impact on Thailand’s reputation in the eyes of foreigners. Leonard will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, he added.

The police officer advised foreigners that if they are subject to such fraud or extortion or any other crime then they should report it to the Tourist Police’s 24-hour hotline on 1155 or 1599.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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