Thai police Tuesday filed defamation charges against a lawyer who claimed that alleged Indian mob boss Chhota Rajan bribed a "two-star police general" to arrange his escape from Thailand last week.
Sirichai Piyapichetkul, Rajan's lawyer before he slipped out of the country where he was awaiting extradition to India on a range of criminal charges, said 25 million baht (586,000 dollar) had been paid for his safe passage.
Rajan reportedly called Sirichai after escaping under the noses of seven officers who were supposedly guarding him at the Bangkok hospital where he was being treated for gunshot wounds.
Immigration Commissioner Police Lieutenant General Hemraj Thareethai said his department, which has borne the brunt of the bribe suspicions, had investigated its eight two-star generals and found none was implicated.
Four of them had filed charges against Sirichai and the rest would register their claims later in the day, he said.
"I confirm that I am innocent, the authorities can check my bank accounts" said Kriekphong Phukprayoon, one of the senior police officers in the department.
"I would not sacrifice my position for a 25 million baht bribe," he added.
Sirichai vowed to prove his allegations, which are now the subject of a police investigation that began Monday and is expected to run for a week.
"I will fight this charge, and I have evidence in the form of documents, taped conversations and witnesses," he told AFP.
Thai deputy police commissioner General Sant Sarutanond demanded Sirichai hand over details of his allegations and evidence to support the claims to the National Police Office.
He said police would also carry out a thorough search of the houses of the officers who had been on duty at the time of Rajan's escape, and examine their relatives' bank accounts.
He admitted that the junior police -- who have now been sacked -- had accepted money from Rajan but that the sums amounted to only a few thousand baht.
The mob boss was wounded in September by gunmen who burst into a Bangkok apartment and killed his associate Rohit Verma in what appeared to be a shooting ordered by Rajan's rival, Dubai-based gangster Dawood Ibrahim.
Rajan was once Ibrahim's right-hand man in the Bombay underworld but a series of bomb blasts in the city in 1993 which killed 300 people led to a falling out.
Rajan, who reached Bangkok earlier this year after fleeing to Dubai in 1988, is believed to control a crime empire that takes in extortion rackets, drug trafficking and film financing -- BANGKOK (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)