Thai business magnate charged after being caught poaching animals in protected wildlife sanctuary

Police arrest Premchai Karnasuta and three other suspects after finding group with rifles and hunting gear

Tom Embury-Dennis@tomemburyd
Wednesday 07 February 2018 16:58
Premchai Karnasuta (centre), boss of Italian-Thai Development, being arrested by authorities
Premchai Karnasuta (centre), boss of Italian-Thai Development, being arrested by authorities

A Thai business magnate has been charged after he was allegedly caught poaching animals, including a black panther, in one of the country's protected wildlife sanctuaries.

Premchai Karnasuta, the largest shareholder of one of Thailand’s biggest construction firms, was arrested with three other suspects by park rangers at Thungyai Naresuan national park.

His three companions are believed to be employees at the 63-year-old’s company, Italian-Thai Development, according to local media.

All four face charges of illegal hunting and illegal possession of carcasses of protected animals.

Mr Karnasuta was granted bail of 150,000 baht (£3,420) after being detained for two days, local media reported.

Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said the businessman was found with the skinned carcasses of the black panther, as well as a Kalij pheasant and a barking deer.

All three are protected species under Thai law.

Authorities, who released images of Mr Karnasuta with hunting gear, also seized three rifles and 143 bullets.

Officials measure the pelt of a black panther in the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary

Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is situated in the west of the country at the border with Myanmar.

The reserve is home to a diverse range of animal species, including tigers, leopards, bears and elephants.

Police Lieutenant General Kittipong Ngaomuk said all four denied all charges.

“At this stage, we learned Mr Premchai had sought approval to visit the park in one of the allowed zones," he told the Bangkok Post newspaper.

"However, he went in before getting the approval and entered a prohibited zone."

Shares in Italian-Thai Development dropped 3.63 per cent following news of Mr Karnasuta’s arrest, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.

The firm has been in charge of projects including the construction of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, and the capital’s elevated metro system commonly known as the Skytrain.

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