Belgian, Dutch fugitives caught on Thai island

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BANGKOK, Oct 18 (Reuters) Three Belgian and two Dutch fugitives alleged to be part of a major drug trafficking ring in Belgium were arrested on the southern Thai island of Samui today after tip-offs from Belgian officials, Thai police said.

The five were sought by Belgium after 125 kg of heroin, 200 kg (440 lb) of cocaine and 350 tonnes of marijuana were seized in Belgium in November last year, Thai police said.

The value of the drugs in Belgium was estimated at 5 billion baht (150 million dollar), they said in a statement.

It identified the two Dutchmen as Ronald Koornwinder, 55, and Paulus Meyer, 44 and the three Belgians as Koen Vanstaay, 29, Kelly Cautereels, 25 and Pedro Jose Noves Gracia, 40.

Belgian police had alerted their counterparts in Bangkok in June that the five had fled charges of drug trafficking, money laundering and organised crime, the statement said.

The five arrested today were living in a luxury hilltop mansion on Samui that Koornwinder bought under his Thai wife's name, Colonel Suntichai Verapakkaroon of the anti-drug police unit told Reuters.

Noves Gracia was caught at a Samui hospital where he had been treated for a month after a motorcycle accident, Suntichai said.

The other four, whose identities were confirmed by a team of nine Belgian police officers led by their national police chief, were arrested at the house in a dawn raid, he said.

It would take another a month for extradition procedures to send them back to Belgium for trial, Suntichai said.

Reuters AE DB1338

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