BANGKOK (Reuters) - Two former senior policeman in Thailand, one with a link to the royal family, were sentenced in a criminal court on Friday to six years in prison for lese majeste and involvement in an illegal casino.
The two were arrested after an investigation that became a high-profile corruption scandal and embroiled army sergeants, one of Thailand’s richest men and several relatives of the former Princess Srirasmi.
Thailand’s lese-majeste law is the world’s harshest and makes it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen or heir to the throne or regent.
Former Central Investigation Bureau chief, Pongpat Chayaphan, and his former deputy, Police Major General Kowit Wongrungroj had their sentences halved to six years after pleading guilty to the charges.
Pongpat is the uncle of Srirasmi, the third wife of heir apparent Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn.
Srirasmi resigned from her royal post on Dec. 13, losing her royal title, “Mom”, which translates as princess.
The prince asked the government to strip his wife’s family of their royally bestowed surname in November, after seven of her relatives, including Pongpat, were arrested for alleged graft to face charges ranging from bribery to defaming the monarchy.
The corruption scandal riveted a nation in which news about the palace is tightly controlled. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 87, is the world’s longest-reigning monarch and has been in hospital since having his gallbladder removed in October.
Anxiety over the succession has formed a backdrop to political turbulence in Thailand, where the government was overthrown by a staunchly royalist faction of the military in May.
Police displayed stacks of cash, luxury cars and an extensive collection of antique Buddha statues in late November, which police said were seized after raiding the homes of suspects involved in this case.
Police said searches of the suspects’ homes revealed assets worth a total of more than a billion baht ($30.52 million).
Reporting By Aukkarapon Niyomyat, Kaweewit Kaewjinda and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Simon Webb and Robert Birsel