From ANDREW DRUMMOND, Bangkok,
January 16 2010
In an alarming development in southern Thailand Irish businessman Colin Vard, who has been in hiding ever since he was robbed of seven properties in Phuket, says he has received more than 200 death threats in five days.
Colin Vard with his kids Jessie and Daire
Nobody should know where Colin Vard is. He has been told by Regional Police in Surat Thani to keep out of Phuket, stay on the move, and regularly change his mobile phone sim card, and even mobile phone itself. There is no real witness protection in Thailand.
The latest death threats, he says, came after Phuket Police called his lawyer to ask for his number to remind him that he is due in Phuket Court shortly. The lawyer gave Phuket Police his telephone number.
Colin, from Dublin, is from a very well-known wealthy Irish family. He himself was an author and clothing manufacturer, and cousin of the singing 'Vard Sisters'.
In what appears to have been a conspiracy involving bent lawyers, his nanny, 'influential figures' and the police themselves last year he was cleaned out of his mansion and seven properties in Phuket.
While the paperwork was being prepared to remove him from ownership of all his properties his two young children were placed in the family well in Phuket, he said.
His case was taken up by Police Colonel Cherdprong Chewpreecha, of Police Region 8 Headquarters in Surat Thani and even Thailand's national police spokesman Police Major General Prawut Thavornsiri declared: 'Those guilty must be brought to justice, whoever they are, even if they are police and lawyers.'
Indeed one of the recipients of Mr. Vard's houses appears to be have been closely related to a local police chief.
Last May there was a stand-off in Phuket between Regional and local Chalong Police after Police Colonel Cherdprong (right) discovered that evidence implicating local police was being suppressed.
Mr. Vard has since been assured that the cases are still on course hence they are beginning next week.
But it is an alarming state of affairs. To cap it all Mr. Vard has discovered that he is in the same boat as seven former millionaires who have lost their properties in Phuket. They became his friends during his quest to find out what has gone wrong on this popular holiday island.
Seven is of course not the total. These are the guys he knows on a personal basis. Lawyers, he says, tell him that the courts in Phuket are stacked up with fraud cases being brought against Thais and foreigners, or rather foreigners and their nominees. The figure he was given was in excess of 500.
If Phuket is indeed such an island of conspiracy perhaps its unofficial slogan should be. 'See Phuket, but bring your own barge police to fend it off'.
Colin Vard insists he followed the letter of the law when he acquired property in Phuket. What he did not know was that lawyers were doing otherwise.
His biggest gripe is with the Embassies. Not just the Irish - all of them. 'Most Embassies couch their warnings about buying property in Thailand in modest terms. None of them will say there are major conspiracies going on. If people knew the truth this island would be blown out of the water.'
How we broke the story:
Children padlocked in well