Day 1The 50 witnesses were interviewed. Most were looking at the bank entrance, or the fire engine squad, or the paramedics, or eating from the stalls of some local entrepreneurs.
The bank manager, holding his briefcase, was outside the whole time until the fire department had given the all clear and the staff returned to the bank to release the security shutters and count the cash. The bank manager reported up-line that currencies worth three million baht were missing. He was told to stay put until the police arrived to search the premises and take statements.
The police cashier was interviewed. She left her till and joined the other staff. As far as she knew, the security shutters were activated and the bank manager, who was holding his briefcase, joined her. She could not remember how much was in the till; whilst it held significant amounts of different currencies, it was not due to be counted until close of business.
The five other employees were interviewed. Nothing. All procedures were followed correctly. All staff lockers were opened and examined. Nothing. The police did a thorough job. The missing money was not in the building.
The bank manager (who was arrested on site and who had been held in custody since) was interviewed. Still wearing his dark grey suit and yellow tie, he coolly confirmed that the security shutters were in place and that he had some 20 witnesses substantiating he left the bank with the staff. His briefcase was forensically examined. Nothing.
Police with specially trained dogs invaded his two-bedroom condominium apartment. Action movies, notably Arnie Swarzeneger, Jackie Chan and a few XXX, dominated his interests. Nothing.
The forensic team looked for the manager’s garbage, but it was too late, all garbage had been collected and sent to the dump. His bank account records were examined. Nothing, apart from a small overdraft. Prik Dum decided to let him stew awhile.
Elroy and Innocent were interviewed separately at a safe house away from any observers. Innocent was angry.
“Why the fuck you lock us up in this roach infested room? You assholes better get us out of here, like today or earlier even better.”
Elroy was more laidback.
“Why the fuck you lock us up in this roach infested room? I thought we getting the VIP treatment, like cars and women, for example?”
Innocent again. “Like I was nowhere near the cash man, I was protecting myself from one of your mad ‘motherfuckers’. The asshole nearly killed me with that baseball bat. Three of you had to drag him off me.”
Elroy again. “Like you got your bag of cash back, like I had some more hidden up my ass or something?”
Prik Dum got nowhere with them, not that he expected to really. He even regretted persuading Colonel Chooshoop to use these outsiders, rather than Thai police agents, to infiltrate the ‘Chinese project’ network.
Day 2Lieutenant Prik Dum was no fool. However, time was against him. He went back to the bank and looked at the CCTV coverage. Nobody at the empty till. About 30 seconds of blank tape. Shutters coming down and sealing off the tills. Picture of bank manager, leaving with his briefcase.
Outside, picture of bank manager holding briefcase. Nothing else. (The FBI had the technology to take individual CCTV frames and reproduce them in fine detail, but this was not available in Bangkok. Had it been, the clasps on the briefcases would be seen to be different.)
He went through the witness statements again. Too many inconsistencies that would take a month to resolve, if at all. One thing caught his attention. Two witnesses had seen a girl on a motorbike leaving, followed by a man on a motorbike. He wondered why they should be leaving the party early, while everyone else was enjoying themselves. He would find out later.
Bangkok in June has many cloudy days. Despite being interviewed several times the bank manager had stuck firmly to his story. Prik Dum had prayed to the Angels, but to no avail. The sun wasn’t shining that day, but it was all to change. Changes that would turn his life upside down.
During one afternoon his cell phone rang.
“Lieutenant Prik Dum?” queried the voice.
Prik Dum sat up. English. “Who are you?”
“Vince Rennie speaking. Colonel Chooshoop asked me to contact you direct regarding some security surveillance work. As you know from your repeated hospital visits I got held up.”
“Ah yes, Mr. Raynee. That most unfortunate. Trust you recover complete.”
Prik Dum thought quickly. Buddha had answered his prayers. “Mr. Raynee, you can go Terrace bar, Landmark Hotel, Sukhumvit, near Nana BTS, maybe one hour from now?”
“I’ll be waiting.”
No hesitation. Seemed like Mr. Raynee was ready to go. Prik Dum was pleased. Despite the delays, everything was falling into place.
“I come all the way to Bangkok to be a bloody chauffeur and nursemaid to amateurs, you’re talking to the wrong man, detective.”
“Mr. Raynee. We pay much money. Three million baht for one month work, plus substantial bonus if you successful.”
Vince had a re-think. They were using money as a motivator, but it still didn’t smell right. “Look, you got my attention. I want to hear it all, and then I’ll decide.”
Vince listened to Prik Dum who explained that the new Thai government, with USA support, wanted to drive out widespread corruption and the Royal Thai police force led by Colonel Chooshoop had been tasked to achieve this.
The biggest players by far were the Chinese, led by powerful and influential men, who were laundering money gained from many illegal activities. The ‘Chinese project’ aimed to penetrate their network at the highest levels and obtain the evidence needed to prosecute them.
Prik Dum would use outsiders acting as ‘Nigerian’ counterfeiters to set up a ‘sting‘ operation, and Vince’s job would be, firstly, Prik Dum’s inside man, and, secondly, bodyguard to the ‘Nigerians’. Prik Dum concluded with a warning.
“This highly sensitive, some commanders corrupt and some senior police generals not want ‘outsiders’, therefore many difficulties. Also, you first have other job.”
Vince thought what is he getting into here? His antenna was twitching. He couldn’t care shit about the Thai government or the Chinese come to that; as far as he was concerned they could frig one another to pieces. This Nigerian counterfeit plan was like science fiction.
However, Vince swallowed his cynicism. “Ok I’ll go with it, but if the bloody amateurs screw up I’m out of it.”
Prik Dum responded, “They expendable.”
Vince nodded, and wondered if he was also expendable. He was going to earn his money; that was clear. He decided that he would take it one step at a time and see how it went. He had spare passports to get out quickly if it became unhealthy.
“I need 500,000 baht up front. That’s non-negotiable and non refundable. Now what’s this other job?”
Prik Dum nodded agreement. “Go together, police station.”
On the way, Prik Dum told Vince that the robbery was a key element in the Chinese project, and that he would prefer Thai police not to be involved. Vince was shown into an empty fourth floor room with a balcony that looked over secluded police gardens.
The bank manager was brought in and left with Vince. It was all over pretty quickly. He was no match for the highly trained ex-soldier, even though Vince was taking it easy. When Vince, holding him by his ankles over the balcony, released one hand and shouted, “Hasta la Vista, baby,” he cracked.
Vince explained that the bank manager needed some fresh air, having been held in a cell for the last couple of days, to clear his mind. The statement taken by a senior Thai commander and witnessed by Prik Dum included the sentence, “I Mark Nagathornporn, being of sound mind and body, hereby declare that this statement is made by my own free will, and that there has been no coercion used by the Royal Thai police at any time to obtain this confession.”
Later, Prik Dum told Vince that the Bank’s chief executive was willing to cover the loss as ‘exchange differences’, seeing that any more publicity about the bank manager robbing the bank could cause their customers to panic and affect the bank’s credibility. The loss of face in the banking fraternity would be unbearable. So, the Chinese project was given the go-ahead.