Thai billionaire accused of poaching endangered panther goes on trial

The trial of a Thai billionaire who was accused of poaching an endangered black panther has begun after a series of delays.

Premchai Karnasuta, president of one of Thailand's biggest construction companies, appeared at the Kanchanaburi Provincial Court on Tuesday for the first hearing of his case.

The 64-year-old was arrested in February after forest rangers found him and three other employees setting up a camp at the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary.

Officials found them in possession of guns, along with carcasses of an endangered black panther and other animals.

Shortly after his arrest, Premchai was granted bail after he argued that he did not kill the panther.

Outside court, wildlife activists wore masks of the slain big cat to protest against illegal animal poaching.

A court statement revealed that Tuesday's hearing was to hear testimony from three prosecution witnesses, including a deputy police chief and the forest ranger who caught the group red-handed.

The statement added that Premchai asked for his trial to be conducted without him and solely have his lawyer represent him.

The maximum penalty would be just less than 10 years imprisonment if he is found guilty.


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