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Thai court dismisses case against suspected wildlife trafficking kingpin

BANGKOK: A suspected wildlife trafficking kingpin accused of smuggling B31.4 million worth of rhino horns to Thailand has had the case against him dismissed, in a surprise Thai court verdict slammed by conservationists.

corruptionanimalscrime
By AFP

Wednesday 30 January 2019, 05:18PM


Boonchai Bach was arrested in January 2018 in connection with a haul of 14 rhino horns smuggled from Africa to Thailand. Photo: AFP

Boonchai Bach was arrested in January 2018 in connection with a haul of 14 rhino horns smuggled from Africa to Thailand. Photo: AFP

Boonchai Bach, a Vietnamese national with Thai citizenship, was arrested in January 2018 in connection with the smuggling of 14 horns from Africa to Thailand.

His arrest came after police caught an airport quarantine official attempting to remove the horns from the quarantine section of a Bangkok airport.

The police sting led investigators to a major syndicate allegedly financed by Boonchai.

But the case was dismissed by a judge on Tuesday (Jan 29) because of a lack of evidence, according to an official at Samut Prakan provincial court, where the trial took place.

The case against Boonchai unravelled after a key witness changed his testimony linking Boonchai to the crime, according to the founder of anti-trafficking group Freeland, Steve Galster.

“In the end the case was low-profile and treated like a parking ticket,” Galster said, adding that the case “fell apart” when the prosecution’s only major witness “flipped” on the stand.

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Freeland representatives, including Galster, assisted with the investigation and testified at Tuesday’s trial.

They allege there is “adequate incriminating information” to show the Bach family is part of the sprawling Southeast Asian crime syndicate dubbed “Hydra”.

The syndicate smuggles elephant ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts to Chinese and Vietnamese dealers.

For years, traffickers have operated out of Nakhon Phanom province in northeast Thailand, bordering Laos.

It is a pivot point in Asia’s wildlife trafficking chain through which smuggled goods transit through Thailand into Laos and on to Vietnam and China.

Both countries are among the world's biggest markets for parts from endangered or protected species, including tigers, elephants, rhinos and pangolins.

 

 

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Kurt | 06 February 2019 - 11:10:31

A newspaper needs advertising.  The more people read a newspaper ( and comments), the more the adds are red, the more needed money comes in for newspaper exploitation.  Right? Decent comments contribute to society thinking and sometimes the thinking of Authorities ( with small steps). All for the best of Phuket.

Pascale | 03 February 2019 - 15:56:27

Shutting down the comment section? That would create a deep crisis for someone.

Jor12 | 03 February 2019 - 11:14:38

Yep ... I agree. Close it down.  It's useless.  A forum for the crazies.

DeKaaskopp | 02 February 2019 - 13:21:37

Reg:"Agreed" Interesting to see that the Ed. agrees about the "free ticket".How about shutting down the whole comment section.I can't see any necessity to have one anyway.Actually it is useless.

DeKaaskopp | 02 February 2019 - 12:38:16

R2,feeling persecuted and unfair treated again? Stop whinging. Some of my comments not getting published too.Only the serial poster has a free ticket. [Agreed, we have been giving people posting comments a wide berth. If people cannot keep their comments focused on the issues at hand, we will just start shutting the comments down -- Ed]

Rorri_2 | 02 February 2019 - 06:45:12

"What are you talking about you clown," protest... editor, you are allowing this person to again start his name calling, my posts often not get posted, I don't know why, but this person seems immune, along with his bedmates, is there a reason. [Agreed, we have been giving people posting comments a wide berth. If people cannot keep their comments focused on the issues at hand, we will...

Jor12 | 01 February 2019 - 21:00:51

What are you talking about you clown? The witness changed his testimony not under oath but from what he originally stated to Police.

Kurt | 01 February 2019 - 10:34:46

A key witness changed his testimony.  Are in Thailand key witnesses not heard and statements made under oath? Is there in Thailand by law a heavy penalty for witnesses lying under oath? ( prison time).  This whole legal affair handling, from beginning to the end, looks very strange. More like a thai soap.

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