Black panther verdict: Construction tycoon must go to jail, Supreme Court

Premchai Karnasuta, left, sits in the campsite where he was found in February 2018 with the remains of protected wildlife in in the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province. Photo: Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
Premchai Karnasuta, left, sits in the campsite where he was found in February 2018 with the remains of protected wildlife in in the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province. Photo: Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

Thailand’s top court ruled Wednesday that a powerful construction tycoon and his underling accomplices must go to jail for their roles in poaching protected wild animals nearly four years ago.

The Supreme Court today upheld the convictions of Italian-Thai Development CEO Premchai Karnasuta on charges of bribery and conspiring to poach wildlife, for which he had been sentenced to a total of two years and six months in jail.

It also upheld the verdicts against two other defendants, Yong Dodkrau and Thani Thummat, who had been sentenced to between two years and nine months to two years and 13 months each. The three must also pay a total of THB2 million (US$60,000) to the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department.

In February 2018, Premchai and his hunting team were discovered with numerous animal carcasses and guns in the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province.

Images of one of the nation’s wealthiest men sitting in a camp littered with the remains of protected wildlife – including the black panther, which park rangers said he’d cooked into a soup – enraged the public. 

The park ranger who arrested him, Wichien Chinnawong, was hailed as a hero. Most assumed Premchai would be untouchable, given his status atop a firm responsible for building much of the nation’s infrastructure.

He was first convicted in January 2019 on weapons-related charges and intent to poach wildlife, though he was found not guilty of the most serious offense – poaching the black panther. Later that year he was convicted of attempting to bribe the park rangers who arrested him, for which he was sentenced to one year.

A raid on his home found illegal ivory, but he was acquitted of those charges as well.

Subsequent appeals of those convictions were upheld by the appeals court before reaching the Supreme Court.

Related

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Construction tycoon arrested for hunting protected animals

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