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Thai prince denies involvement with Mafia

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Thailand's crown prince, in an unusually frank interview published Thursday, denied 'vicious rumors' that he is involved in the underworld, has rigged the national lottery or runs a nightclub.

'Do I look like a Mafia boss type?' Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn asked a group of Thai journalists in a year-end interview.

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'I tell you, if I were, I would have been a millionaire by now,' he said. 'I was deeply hurt and felt heavy-hearted upon hearing the rumors. I don't understand why, whenever anything goes wrong, it is always linked to me.'

It was the first time the prince has responded to the rumors, which have been circulating for several years. His comments were considered unusually frank for a member of Thailand's normally discreet royal family.

The 40-year-old prince is the only son and second child of four children of revered King Bhumipol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. Criticism of the royal family is a punishable offense under Thai law.

'I've heard allegations that I run a pub here, have a nightclub there and fund a trust or finance company,' the crown prince said in the interview conducted in his palace near Bangkok and published in local newspapers Thursday.

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'The rumors even go further by saying that I act as a powerful Mafia boss, providing protection for sleazy businesses to operate beyond regular hours and allow my royal page to be in charge. I'm also accused of lottery rigging... I would like to emphasize that I hate anything that is illegal,' he said.

'I have never bought a lotteryticket in my life and I have never visited the government lottery office,' he said. 'I don't know how to rig it. The money I spend is earned honestly. I don't want to touch money earned illegally or through the suffering of others.'

He urged the public to report to the police anyone who is using his name or those of his aides to benefit illegal activities.

'Whoever misuses mmy name is being vicious and abominable...These rumors have been around for years, but I have not been able to respond to them because of my position. I am a public figure. What am I to do to defend myself?'

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