Thai Internet Personality Sentenced to 54 Years in Prison for Promoting Gambling
Posted on: December 14, 2022, 10:48h.
Last updated on: 14 December 2022, 10:48h.
In February last year, police in Thailand arrested an internet personality and former boxer on charges of running an illegal gambling operation. Now, Siapo Po-arnon had his day in court and the result was a sentence of 54 years in prison.
Siapo was arrested at his home in Bangkok as part of a series of raids. Police monitored the gambling operation before he dropped the net in seven locations, including his home.
Just six months earlier, Thai lawmakers had asked him to serve as an adviser on gambling regulation. A House committee has been looking into the possibility of online gambling, which is still open for discussion in the country.
From Idol to Criminal
Siapo was something of a cultural icon for a new era of Thai personalities before his world crumbled. At the time of his arrest, prosecutors accused him of being the mastermind behind a large illegal gambling operation that operated across the country and the region.
21 people, including Siapo, were arrested during the raids. Along with him, the police also arrested his wife, his mother, a brother and a sister-in-law. In addition to illegal gambling, they faced charges of money laundering.
These five controlled the “executive group” of the organization, according to the Bangkok Post. Another group managed all the financial transactions, while a third controlled the bank accounts that accepted online bets.
The group allegedly moved more than THB1.8 billion (US$52.09 million) before police broke it up. When they made their first appearance, Siapo and 18 others denied the accusations. This initially landed them in jail without bail. Soon after, his brother and sister-in-law received bail and then fled the country.
For his role as the ringleader, Siapo received a four-year sentence for the illegal online gambling charges. Added to this were 25 charges of money laundering, resulting in another 50 years. His wife received a six-month sentence on two counts of promoting illegal gambling.
There is a possibility that he could serve only 20 years of the 54, as that is the maximum prison sentence in Thailand for many non-violent offenders. However, Siapo is currently appealing against the court’s decision.
Brought Down By The House
There is not much information about Siapo’s role in assisting the Thai House of Representatives with its discussion on gambling regulations. However, since he was a consultant for only six months before the arrest, there is a good chance that something during his work with the government triggered the investigation.
Police determined that he had been operating his illegal operations since at least 2018. By the time they broke up the group, it had executed more than 575,000 financial transactions.
As the police began to launch their raids in the various locations in 2021, many of the would-be accomplices dispersed. Some are still at large, including Siapo’s mother and a number of Myanmar nationals who traveled to Thailand for work.