Thailand extradites five drug suspects to the United States

3Thai authorities extradited five suspected international drug dealers to the United States last week, where they were wanted and will stand trial. The men were part of a ring of alleged narcotics traffickers and contract killers led by a former U.S. soldier named Manuel Hunter who was handed over to American law enforcement by Thai authorities in September.
Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Thai Police General Somyos Pumpanmuang said the arrests represent the most significant organized crime bust involving cooperation with the United States on Thai soil in many years. Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pledged that her administration would work more closely with the U.S. in combating transnational crime during an official visit to Thailand by President Barack Obama one year ago.

Heavily armed officers from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency led the suspects from Klongprem Prison in Bangkok to Don Muang International Airport where they were bundled onto a charter flight to America.After arriving in New York and being brought before a court on November 20, they all pled not guilty to charges of drug trafficking and are being held without bail. They are accused of conspiring to smuggle 100 kilograms of methamphetamines from Thailand to the United States. Some of the methamphetamines were allegedly obtained from North Korea.

The five men included two Britons Phil Shackels and Scott Stammer, one Slovak Alexander Lnu, one Filipino Allan Kelly Perata and a Taiwanese man Ye Tiong Tan Lim. They were arrested in Phuket as part of the sting operation that captured Hunteras he visited the resort island.

Hunter allegedly was the leader of an international drug and murder-for-hire syndicate. Investigators said the syndicate, based in the Philippines, operated throughout Asia, Africa and Europe, smuggling and selling cocaine and crystal methamphetamines.

The gang, however, also engaged in contract killings. The indictment against Hunter cited evidence that he had agreed to have a member of U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency murdered at the request of undercover agents posing as Colombian drug dealers.

Hunter was a soldier in the U.S. Army before his discharge in 2004and had recruited a group of trained snipers. He traveled to Phuket to negotiate what he thought was a major narcotics deal, but that was in actuality a sting operation designed to result in his arrest and the destruction of his syndicate.

Thailand and the United States have had an official extradition treaty since 2003. The treaty was also used in the extradition of Russian illegal arms dealer Viktor Bout in 2010. Bout is now serving a prison sentence in the United States.



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