Two Australian security guards were asleep at Bangkok airport when a criminal convicted of serious offences in Australia who they were guarding slipped away unnoticed through a fire exit door, an investigation has found.
The botched escort of 25-year-old German-born Carlo Konstantin Kohl by the security guards contracted by the Immigration Department has angered Thai authorities, who said they were not informed of his arrival in Thailand.
Kohl, who had served three years' jail in Queensland on drug, theft and other charges, was being escorted from Australia to Germany on Thai Airways flights that transited through Bangkok.
He disappeared in the early hours of May 16 but Thai authorities did not tell the department in Canberra until eight days later that he could not be found in the airport's secure area.
A spokesman for the department said Kohl was taken to a transit hotel after his arrival from Australia because a flight to Germany was delayed eight hours by bad weather.
He was last seen taking a shower.
A Thai police investigation found the guards were asleep in the airport's transit lounge when Kohl walked freely around the airport before exiting unnoticed through a fire escape after disconnecting the electricity supply.
The guards travelling with Kohl from Australia were from Serco, the company that provides security services for the department in Australia.
Thai police have been unable to locate Kohl and have offered a reward for his capture. They believe he may be hiding out in Bangkok's red-light district.
Major-General Suwichpol Imjairach of the Thai Immigration Bureau said Kohl arrived on a Thai Airways flight without the knowledge of immigration police.
"Usually the immigration police must be informed if any foreign suspect is brought into the country, but I have no idea why this case is different," he said. "All the bureau can say now is that the suspect is not in the airport."
Airport director Rawewan Netrakavesna said the Airport Authority of Thailand would question all staff who were at the airport at the time of the escape.
"The [authority] was not notified by the police who were escorting the suspect," she said.
The Bangkok Post newspaper quoted an Airport Authority source as saying the escape had damaged the authority's reputation and prompted increased security measures at the airport.
Serco is preparing a report for the department in Canberra on why Kohl was left unguarded. The company could face a fine over the incident.
"The department views any escape very seriously and is grateful for the professionalism and support provided by the Thai authorities," the spokesman said.
Foreign-born criminals are routinely removed from Australia after serving jail sentences.
Kohl had told immigration officials he would leave Australia without causing problems, a source said.
He is wanted on charges in Germany.
- The Age