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Billionaire seeks police help for alleged extortion

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Billionaire seeks police help for alleged extortion
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A billionaire businessman lodged a complaint yesterday against a former board member of the Office of the Welfare Promotion Commission for Teachers and Educational Personnel for alleged detention, extortion and intimidation.

“Several times he threatened to assault and kill me after I refused to pay him 177 million baht,” Samrit Bunditkitsada told the Crime Suppression Division (CSD). “He has even threatened to plant a bomb in my office.”

Mr Samrit is the biggest shareholder of Promise Insurance and founder of Billion Innovated Group.

Among football fans, he is known for running the Police United FC and taking over Reading FC.

Pairoj Tesniyom, who heads the Crime Reporter & Photographer Association of Thailand, accompanied Mr Samrit to CSD acting chief Pol Col Akkaradet Pimonsri yesterday, when Mr Samrit requested police protection.

His trouble with the Office’s former board member started last August, when the latter complained to police that Mr Samrit had abetted wrongdoing by officials.

The complaint was tied to the Office’s decision to direct Bt2.1 billion to the Billion Innovated Group’s solar power plant project in Nong Ya Plong district in Phetchaburi.

“The accusation that the money is a loan granted to my firm is groundless. The truth is that the Office has decided to invest in the power plant,” Mr Samrit said.

He said that after lodging the complaint with police, the former board member had tried to contact him many times.

“So, I finally agreed to meet him on January 12 at a scout camp. Once there, I found him with many robust men. Of them, four carried guns,” Mr Samrit said.

‘I feel my life is in danger’

He said the men forced him to strip and he could only cover himself with a towel during negotiations with the former board member, who allegedly made three demands.

“He wants to me to help him overthrow the current board of the Office, and to pay him Bt177 million in exchange for him withdrawing the complaint against me.

“The third demand is that if the current board of the Office is removed and replaced by his gang, he wants me to pay him a 30-per-cent kickback for any amount of money spent by the Office on my firm’s projects in the future,” Mr Samrit said.

The businessman said that to ensure his safety, he had assured the former board member that he would consider the demands.

After being released, Mr Samrit has not paid the former board member any money.

“Since then, he has intimidated me time and again. I feel my life is in danger and his actions have affected my business. That’s why I have decided to come forward now,” Mr Samrit said.

Col Akaradej promised to look into Samrit’s complaints and ensure justice to all sides.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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