Authorities in Thailand are looking for a sacked cop after a video of him torturing and killing a drug suspect in custody led to outrage in the country.
Thitisan Utthanaphon, nicknamed “Jo Ferrari” because of his collection of expensive sports cars, and six others have been charged with murder, local media reported.
A leaked video of police officers including Mr Thitisan showed a drug suspect — who was arrested for selling methamphetamine pills — being suffocated with plastic bags over his head in an alleged extortion effort.
The CCTV footage that was posted online, showed the officers asking the drug dealer to pay $60,000 to have the charges dropped.
The video shows that the man, identified by the local media as Jeerapong Thanapat, is assaulted and thrown to the floor by officers who then put more plastic bags over his head.
The video also shows one of the officers kneeling on him.
Thanapat is seen going limp in the video. Police then try to revive him with a jug of water and CPR.
When he died due to suffocation, local Thai media said that Mr Thitisan, 39, ordered his men to take the body to the hospital and tell the doctor the death was caused by a drug overdose.
Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch said: “This case of police torture and murder is shocking. But this is not the first case and it is unlikely to be the last case until, and unless, the police conduct serious interrogations and investigations and leave no stones unturned.”
On Wednesday, authorities found 13 luxury cars inside Mr Thitisan’s mansion in Bangkok.
After the video was leaked, Mr Thitisan was fired as a police superintendent in Nakhon Sawan, 250km north of Bangkok.
Meanwhile, police in Thailand have also come under fire for use of brutal force in quelling anti-government protests in Bangkok.
A police spokesperson told the media on Wednesday: “We are proceeding with this case, pursuing both criminal cases and disciplinary action.”
The Bangkok Post quoted Patchara Anuntasilpa, the customs and excise department’s director-general, as saying that the department examined its records and found that Mr Thitisan had been the “official in charge of confiscating 368 illegally imported vehicles, including luxury cars and supercars, during 2011 to 2017.”
It said that “of the total, 353 cars were auctioned, raking in about 1 billion baht [$3,05,43,680], and the remaining three have not been sold.”
According to customs regulations at the time, 30 per cent of the proceeds from all smuggled products were incentives for police teams or those bringing cases to the attention of authorities, and 25 per cent were rewarded to other officials, including the police.
He said that Mr Thitisan was among the beneficiaries of the rules. He, however, also pointed out that the regulations were repealed in 2017 and the incentive and reward rates have since been changed to 20 per cent each and capped at 5 million baht ($152,718) total per case.
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