More than 3,000 crocodiles seized from a suspected drug kingpin went under the hammer on Thursday in the first auction of reptiles confiscated in Thailand’s war on drugs.
“It’s quite a strange auction because they are crocodiles,” Justice Minister Pongthep Thepkanjana said at a farm north of Bangkok where buyers checked out the snapping beasts held in nearly 30 fenced ponds.
“We auctioned them because they are property related to the narcotics trade,” Pongthep told Reuters Television.
Some 9,200 crocodiles and 100,000 catfish were among the more exotic items seized by authorities in a crackdown on the country’s notorious drugs trade last year.
Drug dealers often launder their illicit wealth through legitimate businesses such as crocodile, ostrich and fish farms, and jewelry shops.
More than 2,000 suspected drug peddlers were killed in last year’s campaign, which triggered an outcry from rights activists who accused police of acting outside the law, a charge the government denied.
Meanwhile, the results of Thursday’s auction disappointed drug busters on hand to watch the odd event.
There were only three bidders and they paid 5.8 million baht ($143,000), well below the 10 million baht authorities had hoped to earn to defray the cost of keeping the crocs.
“Despite the poor prices, we decided to sell them because we didn’t want to bear their high costs. We have already spent so much in 15 months,” said Police Col. Kovit Piromwongse, a senior officer at the Anti-Money Laundering Office.