A recent case of illegal sale of frozen fish has led to the arrest of five state officials and two civilians in Thailand. The individuals were allegedly involved in the sale of frozen fish confiscated from an illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) vessel. The suspects include a former director of the Bangkok Port Customs Office and senior customs officials.
The Seizure of Frozen Fish
Authorities seized 147 tonnes of frozen fish from a Somali fishing vessel. The vessel’s crew failed to produce the required permit to import aquatic animals from the Department of Fisheries. Six out of the seven containers of fish were taken to the Bangkok Port Customs Office, while the remaining container was stored at Phra Samut Chedi Customs Office in Samut Prakan province.
Fraudulent Rationing and Sale
Initially, the seized fish, valued between 300 million to 400 million baht, were to be sold or distributed to state officials and neighboring communities through a rationing system. However, it was discovered that the fish had not been properly sold through the rationing process. Instead, they were sold to a single buyer using a fraudulent list of 96 individuals posing as buyers. The proceeds from this sale were not handed over to the state as required.
Investigation and Arrests
Police investigators traced the money trails and identified the seven suspects involved in the illegal sale. The suspects have been charged with violating sections 157, 147, and 86 of the Criminal Code, which deal with dereliction of duty, abuse of authorities in the appropriation of funds, and assisting any person to commit an offence. The investigation report and indictments have been submitted against the suspects.
Expanding the Probe
Authorities are now widening their investigation into allegations that a major fish agent in Samut Prakan sold some of the seized frozen fish to stalls at reduced prices. The Customs Department has set up a panel to take disciplinary action against the accused officials involved.
Charges and Suspects
Among the seven suspects, three officials have been charged with malfeasance and dereliction of duty. They were responsible for overseeing the confiscated goods and selling aquatic animals. Another suspect has been charged with supporting corruption. The former director of the Bangkok Port Customs Office was found to be the buyer of the confiscated frozen fish but did not report the proceeds from the sale. He has been charged with supporting officials to commit an offence. The remaining two suspects, who are both legal experts at the department, have been charged with dereliction of duty.