French Fugitive Arrested for Alleged Extortion in Bangkok After Claiming Close Police Ties with “Big Joke”

PHOTO: Thai Post

National —

A French man was arrested on extortion charges after he allegedly went around extorting money from ex-pats in Pattaya, blatantly claiming he had close ties with senior police officers, including the Thai deputy national police chief famously known by his nickname as “Big Joke.”

Pol. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, or Big Joke, announced the arrest of Herve Leonard, 58 (Some reports have said 59), on Thursday, February 2nd.

The French suspect was nabbed at a condominium on Phahon Yothin Road in Bangkok’s Chatuchak district on Wednesday, February 1st, on the accusation of extortion against many ex-pats in Pattaya.

Big Joke stated that Leonard extorted money from ex-pats in exchange for his protection, claiming he knew many senior Thai police officers, including Big Joke himself.

The suspect took advantage of previously being a volunteer to support police activities to snap photos with senior police and use them to back up his claim, Big Joke explained.

Leonard was wanted on five arrest warrants for extortion, fraud, and coercion issued by the Pattaya Provincial Court. He was also wanted by Interpol.

The suspect had stayed in the kingdom for 868 days before his arrest on Wednesday, having overstayed his visa since September 15, 2020.

The French man routinely changed his whereabouts every 2-3 weeks between Pattaya, Hua Hin, and Bangkok to avoid arrest. The suspect lied to hotel operators that he had lost his passport, said Big Joke.

Leonard was once arrested but jumped bail and remained at large until last Wednesday.

The operation to look for the French fugitive began four months ago.

The following are photos from the press conference sent by individuals present:


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Aim Tanakorn
The local news translator at The Pattaya News. Aim is a twenty-four year old who currently lives in Bangkok. Interested in English translation, story-telling, and entrepreneurship, he believes that hard-working is an indispensable component of every success in this world.