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Phuket cop cleared in South African “cash for freedom’ claim

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Phuket cop cleared in South African “cash for freedom’ claim | Thaiger

PHUKET: A Phuket policeman has been cleared of allegations made by a South African man that he had to “buy his freedom” following his arrest for passing counterfeit US dollars.

It took Chalong Police duty officer Boonlert Onklang almost a month to prove his innocence after South African tourist Gabriel Sequeira was quoted by the South African media saying he paid almost half-a-million baht “to police and lawyers” to secure his release after he was charged for allegedly passing bogus US banknotes.

After the allegations became international news, Lt Col Boonlert was “transferred” to Phuket Provincial Police headquarters in Phuket Town and given time to prepare a case to clear his name before the Office of the Attorney General in Bangkok.

“I went to Bangkok on October 13 [last Thursday] with all the evidence needed to prove that I was innocent, that I did not do what I was accused of.

“I am happy that the investigation team agreed with the evidence presented and I have finally been declared free of any charge in this case,” he said.

After the ruling, Lt Col Boonlert held a press conference before a parliament subcommittee.

“I explained myself so the public would understand my case. I believe the truth will always come out. I submitted all the evidence required and the truth came out that I was not guilty,” he said.

“Since this issue concerns the reputation of the entire country, I have also informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Senate Standing Committee on Tourism about the ruling,” he added.

At the press conference, Lt Col Boonlert said he was able to prove that the money Mr Sequeira claimed to have paid to “police and lawyers” to “buy his freedom” was in fact all legal fees paid to his lawyer, and in amounts he had agreed to.

“Mr Gabriel was arrested for possessing counterfeit US dollars. We kept him here for one night, on September 2. He was released the following day, but we ‘had to’ hold his passport from the day we released him until completion of the investigation on September 28,” Lt Col Boonlert explained to the Phuket Gazette.

“I had nothing to do with the money in question. Mr Sequeira spent that amount to pay the lawyer he hired,” he added.

During the investigation, Lt Col Boonlert was transferred to Phuket Provincial Police Station for 30 days effective from October 4.

Now that he has been cleared of any wrongdoing he will be transferred back to Chalong Police Station, effective October 22.

“I am happy to return to my duties with a clean record,” he said.

— Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai

 

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