Sex tycoon turned lawmaker exposes the police corruption he used to foster

September 13, 2011

By Richard S. Ehrlich – Special to The Washington Times

BANGKOK | When Thai voters recently elected a joke-cracking, former massage parlor tycoon to parliament, they probably did not expect him to expose police corruption and topple the country’s police chief.

All the drama is thanks to the wise-guy tactics of Chuvit Kamolvisit, who is using his status as a lawmaker to fight the same kind of crime he used to promote.

“You need an expert … to fight corruption,” Mr. Chuvit said at a recent news conference. “I can become the specialist about corruption because I know corruption.”

He has openly admitted bribing police officers when he owned several huge Bangkok massage parlors packed with prostitutes.

After winning a July election, he stunned parliament a month later by displaying an elaborate video sting operation he arranged to show thatThailand’s biggest illegal casino appeared to be protected by police.

Bangkok has more than 170 illegal gambling dens of various sizes that bring in a total of up to $6 billion each year. Five percent to 20 percent of the profits go to police, according to Rajabhat University’s Good Governance program.

Hundreds of thousands of illegal gambling sites exist throughoutThailand.

Mr. Chuvit said he exposed the biggest one in Bangkok, which raked in about $500,000 every night from 1,000 gamblers in the heart of the city.

“So it becomes about [$15 million] per month” in profit for police and others to share from just that one casino, Mr. Chuvit said, grinning with delight that his “anti-corruption” crusade is wildly popular with Thailand’s media and public.

He speculated that “100 percent” of Thailand’s illegal casinos pay bribes to the police.

“They cannot open without the permission of the police,” Mr. Chuvit said. “If you are the big guy from the army, you have to still be paying the police.”

Mr. Chuvit showed his first video in parliament on Aug. 23. It revealed the lush interior of a huge, expensively equipped illegal casino packed with gamblers.

He voiced mock outrage that police had not closed down Thailand’s biggest casino.

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