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British expat pleads guilty to North Korean meth smuggling charges

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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British expat pleads guilty to North Korean meth smuggling charges | The Thaiger

PHUKET: A former Phuket resident involved in an international plot to move enormous stockpiles of North Korean drugs through Thailand and into the United States pleaded guilty to charges of possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine.

British national Scott Stammers, 46, was arrested in Phuket with four other foreigners in September 2013 as they prepared to flood the streets of New York and surrounding areas in the United States with 100 kilograms of meth.

Mr Stammers faces 10 years to life in prison when he is sentenced by a US judge. Three of the other defendants; Chinese national Lim Ye Tiong Tan, 53; Philippines national Kelly Allan Reyes Peralta, 41; and Slovakian national Alexander Lnu, 43, entered guilty pleas earlier this month.

Long-term island resident Mr Lnu, self-described as the ‘sergeant at arms’ of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club (OMC) in Thailand, was to be the ‘ground commander’ for the operation. He was ‘the person principally responsible for the arrangement’ of security and storage in Thailand by supervising an armed crew of OMC members.

“We can bring the sailboat directly into the marina,” Mr Lnu said while discussing the logistics for the operation, pointing out that an open-water transfer would risk discovery from nearby United States military facilities, stated a United States District Court document.

The fifth man accused of involvement in the plan is British national Philip Shackels, 32. Mr Shackles is scheduled to go on trial in New York on Sept 21.

A law enforcement source, who spoke to NBC on condition of anonymity, said the arrests of the five men in 2013 related to a case brought against former US Army Sgt Joseph ‘Rambo’ Hunter, 48, who was arrested in Phuket September 2013 for allegedly leading a ring of globe-trotting contract killers who worked for drug traffickers.

Mr Hunter originally denied the ‘death squad’ charges against him (story here and special report here), but later changed his plea to guilty for recruiting an international team of military-trained snipers to carry out contract killings, reported Reuters (story here). Mr Hunter ‘has acted as a ‘contract killer… he succeeded in arranging for the murder of a number of people’, stated a United States District Court document.

“Like many international criminal networks, these drug traffickers have no respect for borders, and no regard for either the rule of law or who they harm as a result of their criminal endeavors,” US Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Michele M Leonhart said when the extradition of the men from Thailand to the US was confirmed. “This investigation continued to highlight the emergence of North Korea as a significant source of methamphetamine in the global drug trade. I wish to thank the Thai Government for their outstanding efforts and partnership in completely dismantling this sophisticated and dangerous international criminal enterprise.”

The case against Stammers and his associates first details Mr Lim and Mr Reyes Peralta – members of the Hong-Kong-based Triad criminal organization – selling more than 30 kilograms of 99% pure meth from North Korea. The drugs were later seized by law enforcement agents in Thailand and the Philippines.

In 2013, Mr Lim and Mr Reyes Peralta met with an individual who represented himself as a narcotics trafficker, but was in fact a US DEA confidential source.

During the meeting Mr Lim confirmed that they would send a test run of one kilogram of North Korean methamphetamine.

“Comes from the NK [North Korea] place… My boss only gets from the original source,” Mr Lim said, noting that his drug-trafficking organization was the only one able to procure meth from North Korea. “Because before, there were eight. But now, only us. We have the NK product.”

However, Mr Lim refused to bring the source to the meth lab.

“We, we can’t go to North Korea… We take it out. We don’t talk Korean language, they’ll have suspicions. The NK government already burned all the labs. Only our labs are not closed… To show the Americans that they are not selling it any more, they burned it. Then they transfer to another base.”

The sample kilo to be sent to New York by commercial carrier and labeled ‘parts, auto parts’ was priced at US$65,000. However, it was later decided that it was too risky to be shipped and that it should be picked up. Eventually, two samples testing at more than 96% pure and 98% pure were sent to an African country to be moved to the United States.

Following the sample’s delivery, the US government sources were put in contact with Phuket resident, Mr Lnu and Mr Lim agreed to supply an initial transaction of 60kg at a price of US$60,000 per kilo.

It was then agreed to bump the purchased amount to 100kg of North Korean meth.

“My friends, can you do the sixty, a little bit, a little more, like one hundred if we’re doing the same risk,” Mr Reyes Peralta said.

With things heating up between North Korea, South Korea, Japan and the United States, the narcotic cartel was unable to continue to move goods directly out of North Korea, but had stockpiled them in the Philippines in anticipation of the problem.

Next, the crew conducted a test run with 4,700kg of tea, which sailed through without issues.

The plan was to sneak the 100kg of meth onto a sailboat under the guise of a photo shoot at ;the marina’. Court documents do not indicate specifically which marina was to be used.

The five men were quickly scooped up in a joint operation in Phuket and taken to Bangkok’s Khlong Prem Prison before being extradited (story here).

Following the trial, US attorney Preet Bharara thanked authorities in Liberia, Romania and Thailand for assisting with the US investigation.

“Stammers’ scheme ended not with the North Korean methamphetamine flooding American streets as he had intended, but rather with a guilty plea in a Manhattan federal court,” Mr Bharara said.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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Crime

Now you see him, now you don’t… Patong Police hunt foreigner over $30k theft

Greeley Pulitzer

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Now you see him, now you don’t… Patong Police hunt foreigner over $30k theft | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Patong Police

Patong Police have yet to develop any tangible leads tracking down a foreigner who made off with US$30,000 in cash from a currency exchange booth in Kalim, north of Patong in Phuket, last Tuesday.

The man is about 168 centimetres tall with grey hair and around 60 years old, Patong police told The Phuket News.

“We have no clue what nationality he is.”

He was last seen at the currency exchange booth wearing a purple polo shirt, blue jeans and black cap. Police have checked hotels in the area, police stations across the island and Phuket Immigration, but have yet to join the dots and come up with firm leads.

“Investigators have checked CCTV in the area and collected what evidence we have but we still do not know the man’s name or where he was staying.”

The man had visited the booth several times before Tuesday, when he disappeared with the $30,000 in US banknotes, according to police.

“It was always small amounts”, he added, noting that the amounts didn’t warrant staff at the exchange booth to check the man’s passport before making the exchange.

The man arrived at the booth again at about 1pm on Tuesday, saying that he had 900,000 baht cash to exchange.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Crime

Mystery surrounds security guard found dead in his Phuket room

The Thaiger

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Mystery surrounds security guard found dead in his Phuket room | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Phuket Hot News

The security guard of a hotel in Nai Yang, northern Phuket, 52 year old Yingyot Butsabong, from Maha Sarakham province, was found dead yesterday (October 16) in his room. Police remain mystified how the man came to grief.

A woman named Supattra received a call from the hotel he worked at and was informed that he didn’t show up at work yesterday, so she went to his apartment to check on him.

She saw that his room was locked from the inside, so used the key she had in her possession to open the room and found Yingyot laying on the floor, face down. She thought he was just sleeping so she tried to wake him up but once she flipped him, she found that he already passed away.

She immediately called Saku police, and once on the scene, police found that there was some blood on the floor. The man had a 2 centimetre wound on his left eyebrow which was deep into his skull. There was also a wound on his chin about 1 centimetre long and about a centimetre deep. His left eye had a bruise which looked like he was attacked by a hard object.

Police report that he had been dead for around four hours in the room.

The room was not ransacked and there was no sign of fighting or theft. His body has been sent to Thalang Hospital for a detailed autopsy and to look into the cause of death.

SOURCE: Phuket Hot News

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People

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people

Nattha Thepbamrung

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‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | The Thaiger

On October 18, the ‘Always Smile Journey’ group and its partners will host an exhibition with plenty of fun activities at the Yak Yai Market, near Chalong Circle, in Phuket. This event was designed to raise funds to provide free English classes for underprivileged people on the island of Phuket on Saturdays and Sundays. The group does not accept donations but aims to raise money through the sales of the products available at the event.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

From 2 pm to 8 pm, there will be a number of artists, musicians and performers who will keep the attendees entertained along the way. There will be a short film about His Majesty King Rama 9 as well as fun activities and games for kids and families, which are all free of charge.

The big bike crew is also a part of this event. They will ride a parade from Rawai Beach heading to the market and showcase their gorgeous two-wheel buddies.

One of the highlights of the Always Smile Journey exhibition is the ‘Happening’ artists group, who will draw and paint a picture of the His Majesty King Rama 9 under the name ‘Street Art King Bhumibol’ on a 4×10 meter sign live at the event so the guests will experience this large-scale art in action. The Happening will also offer portrait sketching for the participants.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

One of the works created by the Happening team; a painting of HM the King Rama 9 on a huge wall (Photo credit: Chawat Chumpasan)

There will also be some western menus available at the event which will be donated to underprivileged children.

This free English class project has over seven years of experience through its cooperation working with individuals and other charity organizations. Throughout the years, the group visited several areas such as Ban Laem Hoy School, Ban Bopud School and Ban Angthong School in Samui, Surat Thani province, Ban Bueng Ao Oun School and Ban Kakoh Rayong, in Surin province, Jalae Village of Lahu (Muser) in Chiang Rai province, as well as community education centers in Siem Reap, Cambodia and in Luang Prabang, in Laos.

This event is a cooperation between several groups, including Happening, Yak Yai Market and Arrow Media, Tattoo artist group, Thonburi Art School Alumni, International School of Tourism, Suratthani Rajabhat University, big bike group from Phuket, artists/performers/musicians from many provinces as well as several businesses across Phuket.

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