BANGKOK (AP) — An American described as a "leading drug lord" with a network spanning Asia and the United States was sent to the U.S. on a chartered plane following his arrest in Thailand, police said Friday.
Joseph Manuel Hunter, 48, was handed to agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration at Bangkok's Don Meaung Airport, deputy national police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang said.
Hunter and his suspected accomplices — identified as two Britons, a Slovak, a Filipino and a Taiwanese — were arrested Wednesday on the resort island of Phuket during a sting operation launched at the request of the DEA following a lengthy investigation into the suspected drug gang.
Somyot said Hunter was deported after his passport and visa were revoked and the other five will be in Thai police custody while waiting for extradition. Somyot originally said all six were sent to the U.S. but later revised the information.
According to Thai police, Hunter served in the U.S. Navy, and his alleged accomplices were also believed to have had military training.
The six men were flown in from Phuket to Bangkok on Thursday.
Thai police said the DEA contacted Thai authorities several months ago to say that Hunter was believed to be hiding in Phuket, where he had rented a house. They said Hunter regularly traveled around the region and last entered Thailand from the Philippines on Sept. 6.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Walter Braunohler said Friday he could not immediately comment on the case and referred questions to Washington.