Wed, Apr 19, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Alleged Laotian drug kingpin denies Thailand’s charges


An alleged Laotian drug lord linked to some of Thailand’s rich and famous denied being a major player in the regional narcotics trade when he appeared in a Bangkok court yesterday.

Xaysana Keopimpha, 42, was nabbed by Thai police on his way through Bangkok’s main airport in January.

Narcotics cops alleged he was an “international drug kingpin” and trumpeted his capture in an area of the world where major cartel figures are not big names in criminal folklore and are rarely caught.

The heavy-set Xaysana faces a string of charges including drug smuggling and possession, mainly of a methamphetamine known in Thai as yaba (crazy medicine) for its effect on addicts.

“He denies all the charges,” Xaysana’s lawyer Vorakon Phongtanakul said, adding that his client had also backtracked on a confession he allegedly signed in police custody.

“He didn’t understand Thai laws and officials told him he could change his plea at court,” Vorakon said.

Under Thai law the maximum penalty for smuggling is death, although the country has not executed anyone for years.

Xaysana’s arrest drew widespread coverage in Thailand after police alleged that a string of celebrities, including a famous television soap opera star, and wealthy individuals were linked to his smuggling network.

Drug experts say that Thai, Chinese, Burmese and Malaysian police make frequent arrests and seizures, but rarely catch any top figures, raising doubt about Xaysana’s seniority.

Laos is seen as a particularly weak link among those tasked with trying to combat the trade.

Thai police say Xaysana flaunted his wealth, owning a string of luxury sports cars — some of which have been seized — and traveling frequently to Bangkok where he held parties for members of the social elite.

A photograph of Xaysana posing with relatives of a former Laotian prime minister also raised eyebrows.

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