Former Deputy Minister Sentenced to Death Over Judge’s Brother Murder

On Friday, the Appeals Court sentenced to death a deputy commerce minister who was first given life in prison for murdering a judge’s brother.

Banyin Tangpakorn, 58, was found guilty of murdering Veerachai Sakuntaprasert two years ago. The victim was the older brother of Judge Panida Sakuntaprasert, who handled the former official’s share theft case.

According to police reports, the murder happened after Mr. Banyin kidnapped Mr. Veerachi, intending to influence the judge to side with him in the trial.

In December 2020, the first instance court handed down a life sentence against Mr. Banyin, who confessed to the crime. However, the Appeals Court ruled in favor of Judge Panida’s request on the grounds that all those convicted had admitted to the murder as they had strong evidence against them.

The judge also brought the sentence of Narongsak Pomchan, another convict, from life in imprisonment to death. The sentences of four other convicts were also brought to life in prison.

The former deputy commerce minister crashed his car into a roadside tree in Bangkok’s Suan Luang district on June 26, 2015. A billionaire contractor, later identified as Chuwong Saetang, was sitting in the front seat with him and supposedly died in the accident.

However, police suspected the crash may have been intentional after discovering the car was traveling 30 kilometers per hour. Subsequently, the autopsy report showed Mr. Chuwong had broken ribs and sustained injuries inconsistent with the crash, such as ligature marks on his neck.

The accident allegedly happened after the pair had visited a golf course 20 km from Mr. Chuwong’s home.

Nonetheless, the police investigation revealed that the crash occurred two hours after they left the golf course. The victim’s family began to suspect that the murder had occurred elsewhere and the collision had been staged.

Further investigation revealed that Mr. Chuwong had transferred 38 million baht worth of shares to a marketing officer at a stock brokerage closed to Mr. Banyin ten days before his death, raising more suspicions. Reports also showed that another 228 million baht worth of shares had been transferred to a caddie at a golf course.

The Bangkok South Criminal Court, under Judge Panida, handled the share transfer case and found that the shares may have been transferred using forged papers. Mr. Banyin was then charged with one count of falsifying documents and one count of murder.

Judge Panida reported that she had received multiple threats to dismiss the case and asked her brother to pick her up every day after work, as she feared for her life.

Mr. Veerachai’s body was found in a river in Nakhon Sawan after three -four men kidnapped him outside the court. A captured suspect later revealed that Mr. Banyin was behind the plot.