61 people have been arrested in one of Thailand’s biggest money laundering cases of the year, said to be worth more than 10 billion baht. The suspects are believed to be part of a drug syndicate and money laundering network, allegedly run by a 45 year old Chinese man identified as “Chien Ma,” who was caught earlier in Bangkok.
Provincial police say the arrest of the 61, some of whom were flown from the southern province of Trang to Chiang Mai yesterday, is the culmination of an investigation that’s lasted more than a year. At a media briefing by the Provincial Police Region 5, which covers northern Thailand, officers reported seizing more than 700 passbooks with 10.1 billion baht in assets.
The PPR5 commissioner says the investigation was launched on March 28 last year when police seized millions of meth pills from suspects in Chiang Rai’s Ban Du village. The money trail linked the suspects to another drug ring based in the Central region.
Evidence proved the ring transferred large sums to buy drugs from the suspects, and the transfers implicated a number of import/export firms. Police believe they were created as fronts to launder drug money. 49 bank accounts held by the firms were all traced back to Chien.
The implicated businesses imported foreign goods and exported commodities including farm products, seafood and meat. The police commissioner says the businesses were set up to launder money generated by the drug syndicate. After the firms exported goods to China, they were later re-exported to companies which belonged to drug syndicate in Myanmar. It’s not known whether the probe will extend to that country.
Chien’s alleged network collaborated with at least 3 smaller drug gangs run by a female former model, a temple abbot in Myanmar and an influential businesswoman in Trang. The commisioner says police arrested the 61 in a series of raids over 6 days starting June 16 in Trang. In addition to the 61 suspects, police also identified 13 prison inmates belonging to Chien’s alleged network.
Police in northern Thailand say they’re still tracking 35 others in the gang, and that Chien confessed to managing the transfers of the money, both before and after it was laundered. They say many people were paid 1,000 baht by Chien’s network to open bank accounts to facilitate the transfers.
They will also face charges as accessories to money laundering money and possibly be investigated by the Revenue Department.
SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times
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