Police business

4 04 2020

Pol Gen Somyos and some of his loot

Over the years, PPT has posted quite a bit on police and their often unusual wealth.

Readers may recall the seemingly never investigated story of Thailand’s post-coup police boss Gen Somyos Pumpanmuang who was involved with the owner of the Victoria’s Secret Massage parlor back in January 2018. He claimed to have “borrowed” 300 million baht from the brothel boss. He even appeared with a stack of money that was claimed to be the same 300 million.

Somyos declared in 2014 that he had amassed assets of almost 375 million baht. We have previously posted on his connections with shady business groups that use men-in-black to harass villagers.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission has been deathly quiet on this case.

He’s not the only one. As the 2014 assets declarations showed, top cops averaged a whopping 258 million baht each. Back then, current Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda declared almost 1 billion baht in assets. Current head of the NACC, Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit declared almost 470 million baht in assets.

Pol Gen Wirachai

This is a long introduction to the case of Pol Gen Wirachai Songmetta.

Readers may remember him from the Big Joke police dance in January 2020, when Pol Gen Chakthip came into conflict with Surachate Hakparn, a former immigration chief who, back in April 2019, was quickly and surprisingly taken into custody, removed from his posts and then made a civilian before being resurrected as a cop assigned to Government House. After he claimed shots were fired at his car and that all of the kerfuffle had to do with money associated with a biometric equipment deal, Chakthip suddenly transferred two of his two deputies, Pol Gen Chaiwat Kateworachai and Pol Gen Wirachai.

Adding to the spice, King Vajiralongkorn expelled both officers from the royal police bodyguard corps and ordered that the two were not to wear medals that bear the emblem of the royal guards.

But, then, to our surprise, Pol Gen Wirachai just appeared in the Forbes list of Thailand’s richest, with a photo of him in his uniform. Forbes states “Wirachai Songmetta entered the ranks of Thailand’s richest following the November 2019 IPO of Absolute Clean Energy, a renewable energy producer” and values his fortune at $585 million. It adds that the company “operates 14 biomass power projects with a combined capacity of 212 megawatts…”. (We wonder why Pol Gen Chakthip is not listed?)

Forbes observes that “[h]is ex-wife chairs the company while two of his three sons have board seats.” You can get a look at them here, while noting that one of the sons has been listed as a director of companies associated with Wirachai since he was 18. (That’s how the rich operate in Thailand where family trumps any sort of skill.)

The company claims another 19 projects under development throughout Thailand.

PPT was stunned. Maybe we are naive, but we hadn’t realized that serving cops could own large companies and actively engage in business. ACE is publicly-listed with Wirachai holding more than 22% of the shares and people with the same family name holding almost 80% of the shares.

Another report explains how ACE became big. It built on his family’s earlier business as “the nation’s leading producer of hardboard and wood chips, and the residue of that process is used to fuel the biomass power plants…”.  ACE reports a bunch of associated companies, all family-held and mostly in energy and tree plantations. An example is Shaiyo Triple A, claiming to have “been invited to invest in overseas markets such as China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines, Malaysia, and Australia.”

Being a top cop can only have assisted Wirachai in grabbing land for plantations.

While he’s been a cop, Pol Gen Wirachai has been active in business, including undertaking trips overseas for his companies. In one, in 2018, he was hosted by the Chairman of Thua Thien Hue Provincial People’s Committee in Vietnam, Phan Ngoc Tho with “a reception for President of Shaiyo Triple A group Wirachai Songmetta and delegation. Also attending the working session were relevant departments and agencies.”

Wirachai for himself. Clipped from Thua Thien Hue Portal.

Shaiyo Triple A claims to have 2.5 million contracted farmers supplying it. It, too, has several subsidiaries. One recent report states that the “Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT) has teamed up with Asia Clean Industrial Park Co (ACIP) to develop a new industrial estate in Chon Buri to serve novel investment projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor.” That investment is “located on a plot of 1,300 rai in Ban Bung district with a development cost of 3 billion baht.” ACIP itself “has a registered capital of 1.8 billion baht and Songmetta Corporation owns a 99% stake.” ACIP is reportedly “an affiliate company of Shaiyo Triple A Group, the international conglomerate headquartered in Thailand, with core businesses in agriculture, clean and renewable energy, logistics services, industrial land development, engineering procurement and construction services, and international trading.”

Back at ACE, the Executive Committee includes Pol Lt Gen Adul Narongsak, formerly Deputy Commissioner of Metropolitan Police Bureau. Its Board of Directors includes Charoon Intachan who lists his positions as a member of the Council of State, member of the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee, and a term as President of the Constitutional Court. He was the presiding judge at the Court when it dismissed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office for abuse of power in 2014.

Well connected you might say. With connections to the judiciary and police, the provincial operations of the various companies associated with Pol Gen Wirachai are well lubricated. But politically-connected businesses also carry political risks, especially when the monarch gets involved. When Wirachai was removed to the PM’s Office, the “share price Absolute Clean Energy Public Company Limited (ACE) hit the floor in the morning session on January 24, 2020,” diving almost 30 percent.

We find it troubling that a serving policeman so obviously has other interests and business. More so because there are conflicts of interest involved in the businesses being operated while he is a policeman. The junta was and Prayuth regime is unconcerned by such activities because all of them – police and military – benefit from this and similar activities.


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3 responses

18 04 2020
O brother, where art thou? | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] however, there’s little comedy, much confusion and no music as criminals, oafs and grifters all escape prison and continue with more of the […]

31 08 2021
The rotten system | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Somyos Phumpanmuang, is his uncle. We have posted plenty on the uncle who was corrupt – unusually wealthy – and univestigated by the state’s anti-corruption […]

17 09 2021
The rotten system I | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Somyos Phumpanmuang, is his uncle. We have posted plenty on the uncle who was corrupt – unusually wealthy – and univestigated by the state’s anti-corruption […]

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