-FROM ANDREW DRUMMOND
Royal Thai Police HQ, Bangkok MAY 18 2011-
Police in the Thai capital Bangkok today promised ‘transparency’ in an investigation into a massive fraud committed on an Irish businessman on the holiday island of Phuket – a holiday destination which is increasingly being dubbed the ‘island of greed’ by local expatriates and tourists.
As a gang thought to be comprised of police, lawyers, and local ‘businessman’ tried to hang on to their newly acquired assets and cash, officers from the Thai mainland who had been ordered to investigate were turned away by local police, who insisted they handle their own investigation.
The mainland Police Colonel Cherdprong Chewpreecha from Region 8 Headquarters in Surat Thani (shown right in blue after rescuing son of Irish businessman) had allegedly discovered that police themselves were hiding evidence including a whole file involving local police themselves.
But he and colleagues were forced to return to the mainland after a standoff in Chalong, Phuket.
His land title deeds, it is alleged, were taken by his housekeeper, who, with the assistance of lawyers, police, and influential businessmen, transferred them from his company name, and sold them off at bargain prices, in an at least one case to the relative of a senior policeman.
During the later stages of the fraud, Colin Vard’s children, Jessie, 12, and Daire, 9, were allegedly padlocked in a well at the family home, while their father was in Ireland to attend a wedding.
Two senior policemen from Phuket, one based in the Chalong area, and one a senior provincial officer, were named as suspects in the conspiracy by investigating officers. It is the sister of one who was reported to have acquired one of Vard’s houses.
‘The housekeeper was arrested as was her older sister and the last I heard this matter was going through the courts and Mr.Vard would get his houses back. It has been stated that police and lawyers were involved. I am seeking clarification of what has happened. I will keep you informed.’
Meanwhile Mr.Vard, whose father was Cecil Vard, who drove for Jaguar in several Monte Carlo rallies, and was also the founder of the Dublin Lions Club, was last night still in hiding with his children.
‘I’m afraid with two different sets of police now up against each other this makes matters more dangerous. Police in Surat Thani have advised me to move every three days, and change my phone regularly. I am told it is not safe to go back to Phuket because I am of course the major witness.
‘And actually the housekeeper is in danger too, whether she is in jail or outside, because she got very little of the real money and the gang would not want her to testify.’
The reputation of the island of Phuket has been massively tarnished over the last year with widespread allegations of scams and rip-offs on everything from hiring jet skis – a damaged one can cost the tourist up to $5000 ,and police have been involved in the extortions – to simply catching a cab . Tourists have reported they have been thrown of taxis out on the way to the airport after they refuse to pay more than the agreed price.
Last week Dirk Naumann, the German Honorary Consul on the island in an unusual public outburst, said on a local news site Phuketwan: ”Too many people on Phuket only seem to care about money. It really is time for those who can see what is happening on Phuket to speak out, to show that they want Phuket to be a better place, a place that their children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy.
”I believe Phuket is running out of time. Unless changes come soon, it will be too late for this beautiful island.”
Police Major General Prawut ‘If there are police or lawyers involved they should be arrested’