The theft of jewelry worth $20 million from the Saudi Royal Family by a Thai migrant worker led to the jailing of two senior police officers for corruption, The Times of London Reported.
The theft, which caused a diplomatic rift between the two countries, left a trail of bodies as Thai police sought to cash in on the jewelry taken from the royal palace in Riyadh, then newspaper reported.
Police Lieutenant-General Chalor Kerdthes, 64, the man charged with investigating the theft by the migrant worker and with returning the jewels to their owner, Prince Faisal bin Abdul Raish, was jailed for seven years, the newspaper reported. Major Thanee Sridokaub, 45, received the same sentence. Both were found guilty of kidnapping a Thai jeweler who was handling the stolen gems.
Chalor faces further charges of collaborating in the murder of the jeweler’s wife and 14-year-old son after a ransom demand of $2.5 million was not met, the newspaper reported. Instead of attempting to solve the case, Thai police saw riches in it for themselves, the criminal court in Bangkok had been told.
Saudi Arabia broke off formal relations with Thailand, withdrawing its Ambassador over the investigation into the theft of the jewelry, which included a blue diamond worth $2 million.
Mohammed Koja, the incoming chargé d’affaires, said the gem would curse all those who illegally handled it, the newspaper reported. It is thought that 17 people died in incidents related to the jewelry theft, making superstitious Thais believe the curse was real.
Of those people killed after the jewelry disappeared, most, it is alleged, were executed on the orders of Thai police officers trying to cover up the fact that while they investigated the theft they pocketed most of the missing items, the newspaper reported.
When the Saudis started investigating the disappearance, a spate of assassinations shook Bangkok. In one day in 1991, three Saudi diplomats, A. Z. al-Basri, the consul, Fahad al-Bahli, an attaché, and Ahmed Alsaif, a telex operator, were murdered outside their homes. Two weeks later a Saudi businessman, Mohammed al- Ruwaili, who had knowledge of who had stolen the jewelry, disappeared.
The jewels, weighing 90kg, were stolen between June and August 1990 from the Riyadh palace by a Thai palace worker, Kriangkrai Techamong, now 46, who packed them in boxes and sent them to relatives in Thailand by DHL parcel post.
When Kriangkrai returned to Thailand, the farmer buried some of his loot and started selling items individually for $30 apiece.
He was arrested and the police seized the remaining jewelry. It was then that most of it disappeared.
Chalor, the investigator, put the items on display in Bangkok announcing a police department triumph. He was even given a medal by the Saudi Government.
The main items, however, were missing and others were later found to be faked copies. One of the pieces of jewelry was spotted on a high-society woman at a Red Cross dinner in Bangkok.
Santi Sritanakhan, a jeweler who was fencing the gems, was kidnapped and tortured on the orders of Chalor. A week later his wife, Darawadee, and son, Seri, were found murdered in a Mercedes-Benz, the newspaper reported. Thai police forensic officers put the death down to a road accident.
Later four men admitted committing the murders on police orders. They had demanded a ransom of $2.5 million from the jeweler. The thief who started it all-Kriangkrai Techamong-is free. He was released after serving two years and seven months for handling stolen goods after receiving two royal pardons.
The jewelry has disappeared and “only Allah and a few people in Thailand” know where it is, Koja reportedly said.
Life in jail has not been bad for Chalor. He has formed a rock group and produced his own version of Jailhouse Rock, the proceeds of which have been donated to prisoners’ welfare. He is appealing. “Not all people in jail are guilty,” he reportedly said.