BANGKOK (The Nation): Well-known Phuket resident Tan Teik Hai, aka “Valentino”, and his wife Suwaphat Kheereephon were released on bail of 600,000 each on October 29 following their arrest on charges of encroaching on a vast plot of beachfront land on Koh Yao Yai in Phang Nga.
Tan, a Malaysian national who serves as the honorary consul to Morocco, and his wife, honorary consul to Djibouti, were arrested at their home in Muang District on the evening of October 29.
Col Piyawat Pinket, spokesman for the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) in Bangkok, said the couple were wanted as prime suspects for illegally acquiring more than 1,000 rai on Koh Yao Yai in 1994.
After taking over the case from local police late last year, the DSI found that the couple had paid land officials to have title deeds issued illegally on 300 rai of public land and part of a forest reserve, a DSI report said.
The report also said that after 1994, title deeds had been issued on other public and restricted areas covering another 700 rai.
The DSI report alleges that the couple used the deeds as collateral for mortgage loans totaling more than 400 million baht. The mortgages were granted by two now-defunct financial institutions of which Tan was a director.
DSI Deputy Director-General Pol Gen Tawee Sodsong said he had asked the Anti-Money Laundering Office to investigate who approved the loans.
Four other suspects in the case have since turned themselves in to the DSI: Malaysian Tun Chi Kieng, reportedly a broker for the land-grabbing scheme, and Thai nationals Krachang Kheeree-phon, Boonlert Kheeree-phon and Major Nakhon Thongmee.
All four negotiated their surrender to police and were released on 600,000 baht bail each, calculated as 200,000 baht for three separate encroachment cases each.
Col Piyawat said the investigation involved 52 land plots and 16 encroachment cases, with charges on 13 other cases expected to be made after the DSI has surveyed the land involved.
After that, the DSI investigation would expand to other areas of Koh Yao District, Gen Tawee said.
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