Yesterday, police arrested a man in Rayong province believed to be a major operator of illegal casinos in the East that were blamed for enabling the spread of COVID-19.
Police were also hunting four other men and women, his associates, who were named in arrest warrants.
The arrest followed the seizure of hundreds of poker machines at a warehouse in Khon Kaen last month.
Crime Suppression Division police detained Somchai Jutikitdet, aka Longjoo Somchai, at his house in tambon Muang Phra in Muang district of Rayong.
He was taken to the Provincial Police Region 2 head office for questioning.
National police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk and other senior officers went there to interrogate the 56-year-old themselves.
Rayong was the epicentre of the new wave of COVID-19 wave in December. Health officials said the disease was spread by gamblers gathering at illegal casinos in the province and in adjacent Chon Buri province.
Since 18th December last year, Rayong has logged 580 COVID-19 cases and Chon Buri, 649.
Somchai was among five suspects sought yesterday when police raided 10 locations in the eastern province to suppress an illegal gambling network.
The others were identified as Noi Wongniyom, 74, Rudee sae Ngow, 57, Damrong sae Ngow, 52, and Alisa Jaengsawang, 50. Police said they were Somchai’s followers. They are still at large.
The police operation followed the seizure of 418 slot machines from a warehouse in tambon Phra Lab of Muang district in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen last month.