Former Thai police chief admits $9M loan from brothel owner

BANGKOK — Thailand's former national police chief has acknowledged he borrowed $9.5 million from a brothel owner who is wanted on human trafficking charges.

Former Police Commissioner Somyot Pumpanmuang told reporters the brothel owner, Kampol Wirathepsuporn, has been his friend for more than 20 years, but he was unaware of where the money came from. Somyot's remarks Monday were widely reported in the Thai media on Tuesday.

Police since January have cracked down on several Bangkok brothels linked to Kampol, who is wanted on at least 12 separate charges including human trafficking and prostitution of underage children.

Somyot was appointed police commissioner when Thailand's military seized power from an elected government in 2014. In recent months, allegations of corruption have tainted the ruling junta's reputation. But the police force's reputation as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country is longstanding and predates the army takeover.

"When I go borrowing money, I wouldn't dare ask anyone where they got that money from," Somyot said. "Borrowing is borrowing, helping is helping. He helped me and didn't go anywhere, and the money was returned. The money transfers are in the banking system and can be verified."

He said the loan was conducted legally through the banking system with binding contracts.

"I see no reason to hide this because I don't think that this money is illegal," he said.

Police said Somyot would be questioned about what he revealed as they continue to investigate Kampol, who has been on the run since a warrant for his arrest was issued in January.

Kampol is sought by police for running several large brothels in the guise of massage parlors, and is accused of several prostitution-related offenses.

Somyot said he is well-connected and it was not out of the ordinary for him to be acquainted with Kampol.

"Frankly, I am the type of guy that has many friends. Many people know me. It is not strange at all that I would know Kampol Wirathepsuporn," he said.

Somyot stepped down as police chief in 2015 and is now the president of the Football Association of Thailand. His immediate predecessor at the Football Association, Worawi Makudi, was banned in 2016 from all national and international football-related activities for five years by FIFA, the international governing body of football, for ethical violations including forgery.

Another former police commissioner who served as Football Association president, Chalor Kerdthes, served 19 years in prison for abduction and murder in connection with a high-profile jewelry theft.

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