BANGKOK: A Thai court issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday for one of the kingdom’s most high-profile officers, over allegations of money laundering connected to an illegal online gambling network, police said.

Most forms of betting are illegal in Thailand, with police regularly cracking down on illicit gambling sites both on and offline.

Thai media said on Tuesday that Surachate Hakparn, the kingdom’s deputy national police chief, had reported to the Tao Poon district police station in the capital Bangkok after receiving the arrest warrant.

“The court has issued him an arrest warrant,“ Sarawut Bootdee, an officer involved in the investigation, told AFP.

The allegations include money laundering and conspiring to commit crimes, police said.

Surachate has previously denied all allegations.

It is the latest twist in a long-running saga embroiling the Thai police force that has made headlines in the kingdom for months.

Officers searched Surachate’s Bangkok home in September, following a sprawling investigation that saw SWAT teams raid multiple locations.

Known by the nickname “Big Joke” -- for his seniority, not his sense of humour -- the long-serving officer is well-known in the kingdom for his regular media appearances.

Also dubbed “the cat with nine lives”, Surachate has been linked to powerful figures in the previous government.

He disappeared in 2019 over unclear reasons, before then-prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha made him a special adviser on strategy to police in 2021.

Thai police have long been dogged by allegations of endemic corruption. -AFP

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