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Former Kathu Land Office Chief found guilty

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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BANGKOK (The Nation): The Criminal Court in Bangkok on Monday sentenced former Kathu Land Office Chief Bunchoo Limraksasin to 20 years in prison after finding him guilty on 10 counts of demanding bribes for land titles between December 21, 2001 and March 8, 2003.

The court also found a second defendant in the case, 34-year-old Meena Kalra, guilty on seven counts of conspiring to launder money for Bunchoo. She was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The court heard testimony that Bunchoo had accumulated 5.4 million baht from processing land titles for one woman in 2002, including a final payment of 2 million baht in cash delivered in a gift-wrapped box to Bunchoo by the woman’s land broker.

A warrant was issued for Bunchoo’s arrest after the woman reported him to police, but Bunchoo, who was transferred to Ubon Ratchathani in June 2003, initially evaded arrest.

After a manhunt in Phuket and Phang Nga in July that year, officers from the Crime Suppression Division eventually arrested Bunchoo in Ranong on July 20, after his return from the Andaman Club casino and resort in Myanmar.

The charges against Bunchoo stated that he transferred more than 17 million baht to two bank accounts in Meena’s name and bought a 2.1-million-baht condominium for her in Bangkok’s Phaya Thai District.

Both defendants strenuously denied all charges, as well as allegations that they had been involved in an adulterous affair.

Regardless, the court found Bunchoo’s denial of bribe demands and money transfers unconvincing, noting in its summary that it was unusual that Bunchoo’s wife was unaware of the large transactions involving Meena.

Noting that Meena’s monthly salary was only 5,000 baht, the court also found unconvincing her claim that she was able to amass 17 million baht in personal savings.

Meena had been employed as a part-time helper at the Kathu Land Office when Bunchoo was also employed there.

 

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