XAYSANA Keopimpha, the man said to be one of Southeast Asia’s biggest drug lords, told a Thai court Tuesday he was not a major figure in a regional narcotics network, and vowed to fight the case.
According to local media reports, the 42-year-old Xaysana denied charges of trafficking some 1.2 million methamphetamine pills to sell in Thailand.
Xaysana’s lawyer Vorakon Phongtanakul also told Bangkok’s Criminal Court his client has recanted his confession made while under police custody.
“He denies all the charges,” Vorakon said, as quoted by The Nation.
Vorakon added Xaysana did not understand Thai laws and was misled by investigators that he could change his plea when he appeared in court.
The lawyer added Xaysana was concerned over his detention as he had no prior criminal records and that his family would decide on whether to apply for bail.
The court has set June 19 for a pre-trial examination of evidence, The Nation reported.
Following his arrest at the Suvarnabhumi Airport on Jan 19, Xaysana, or “Mr X” as he is more commonly known, has become the subject of wide media fascination across the region. Authorities have since worked to uncover a vast narcotics cross-border network that spans Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.
With Xaysana’s arrest, Thai and Laotian police seized 74 items, including two residences, 14 land titles, 14 luxury cars, 11 motorbikes, two farm vehicles, 29 bank accounts, gold jewelry and cash in US Dollars and Thai Baht equaling THB1.5 (US$42,000). The total haul was valued at roughly THB100 million (US$2.8 million).
Xaysana’s trips to Thailand also showed lavish stays in luxury hotels and prior to his arrest, the alleged kingpin is believed to have met with clients from his so-called network.
The authorities also believe members of his drug ring number within the hundreds and that the network has links to international mafia groups and triads.
In February, Malaysian police arrested a local man, Kamarudin Awang, suspected of being a major drug dealer linked to Xaysana’s network.
Kamaruddin is believed to be the son-in-law of Marining Jako, the leader of a drug network that sourced contraband from the North and Northeast of Thailand. Thai police had been monitoring Kamaruddin for more than five years prior to his arrest.
Thai police said Kamarudin’s drug trade was also believed to have partially funded unrest in insurgency-plagued Southern Thailand.
Last year, Thai police nabbed four members of Xaysana’s drug network, seizing over five million methamphetamine, or yaba, pills.
Xaysana’s network purportedly involves several Thai celebrities and elites said to have laundered money for him – including the boyfriend of a famous Thai actress and the daughter-in-Law of Former Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, who have all denied any ties with the suspect.