Court affirms term for Saudi gem thief

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the seven-year sentence imposed on a former police sergeant major involved in the 1989 royal Saudi jewels scandal.

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Upholding an Appeal Court ruling, the court reaffirmed the sentence given to Sawek Kanthama, one of seven police officers prosecuted for absconding with jewellery stolen from the palace of late Saudi Prince Faisal bin Fahd. The gems were stolen by Thai janitor Kriangkrai Techamong, but officers replaced some of the gems with fakes before turning them in as evidence.

Sawek was acquitted by the Criminal Court in May 2006 and sought to have the case finalised after public prosecutors failed to file an immediate appeal.

Though the Criminal Court issued its finalisation order in June 2007, an appeal had been made late. Sawek only learned of it in August 2011. In his second trial, the Appeal Court sentenced him to seven years in prison.

In Wednesday's ruling, the Supreme Court said the appeal, even though made tardily, kept the case active and the Appeal Court had the authority to overrule the Criminal Court's earlier decision to finalise the case.

Sawek said he would not petition the Supreme Court. He has been jailed for two years and six months, is categorised as a good prisoner and will wait for freedom, he said.

The former police sergeant major in the Crime Suppression Division was a subordinate of Chalor Kerdthes, a former police lieutenant general who headed the team to find the stolen Saudi jewellery.

The team located the family of jewellery trader Santi Srithanakhan, who reportedly fenced the jewels. But detectives abducted his wife and son, who later died in police custody.

Chalor, now 76, was sentenced to death, but later received royal pardons that commuted his sentence to 50 years. He was released on parole in October.

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