Phuket fraud case crumbles: Dutchman cleared of shopping scam

Photo via Facebook/ Cop Hero Thailand Magazine

Phuket Provincial Court dismissed the case against a 40 year old Dutchman accused of operating a fraudulent shopping mall website scam. He was arrested at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok in February of 2021.

Several Thai and foreign residents, primarily from Phuket province and Koh Samui island in Surat Thani province, filed a complaint against the Dutchman, Wesley Halbach, accusing him of tricking them into investing in the scam.

The complainants reported that Halbach and other website administrators invited them to work for his business by promoting products on multiple shopping websites. They were required to rate each product positively to make it appear on the top of the search engines.

However, to reveal each product, they had to invest in the website. The more they invested, the more rights to rate the products they would get and the more income they would earn. Some invested over 200,000 baht in the website, hoping to get a nice profit from the business.

Unfortunately, they did not get any profits and were also unable to retrieve their investment costs. At least 95 people fell victim to this shopping website scam, and the damage was reported to be over 100 million baht.

Thai police successfully arrested Halbach at Suvarnabhumi Airport while he and his family members were about to leave Thailand. Another suspect involved in the case was later arrested in March. However, many other administrators of the website remained at large.

According to the official document from the Phuket Provincial Court, the two suspects denied the accusations. Further investigation by the Thai police and the court failed to uncover concrete evidence linking the suspects to the website scam.

Officers were unable to find proof that the suspects benefited from the complainants’ investments. Instead, it appeared that the suspects might also have been victims of the fraudulent scheme, as some complainants had worked as administrators, just like the suspects.

Lacking concrete evidence of their criminal actions, the court decided to dismiss the case, as stated in the official document released on 15 June last year.

 

ORIGINAL STORY: Police in Phuket arrest Dutch national for alleged involvement in SPM Shopping Mall scam

Police arrested a 37 year old Dutch national who was allegedly involved in the SPM Shopping Mall website scam, which police suspect is a huge pyramid scheme that defrauded hundreds of people on the island. Police say the man was a Line administrator for the scheme and they are still searching for 40 other suspected Line ‘Admin’.

Wesley Halbach was arrested over the weekend after several Phuket residents filed complaints with police, accusing Wesley of tricking them into making an investment. People were getting paid to “click” on products as a positive rating to help boost SEO rankings, and the more they invested the more they could ‘click’, etc, etc. Many of the Admins, after acquiring ‘customers’ could earn a cash payment of 500 baht per day.

Victims say the more they invested, the more money they would get back. Large investments led to ‘promotions’ in the ‘pyramid’, the victims say. Recently, money transfers did not go through and no one from the company could be contacted, victims say. Some members invested at least 1,000 baht while others invested around 200,000 baht, according to Kanchai Khlaikhleung from the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau.

“At this stage, about 1,000 people have identified themselves as victims. Many of them came with tears on their faces, as they had spent all of their savings on this investment… Most of the victims are living in Phuket and Koh Samui. Some of them understood well how the scheme worked, some just wanted to try it, and some had no idea that it was a Ponzi scheme.”

Kanchai says Wesley monitored the website and Line app every day and invited people to join. Wesley was charged with conducting an online scam and defrauding others. Reports say he was planning to flee to the Netherlands and he was detained at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

The SPM Shopping Mall website domains were registered in China and Hong Kong. Money invested in the scheme had been transferred into 44 accounts at 4 banks overseas, but police didn’t specify which country or what banks. Police are working with transnational agencies for the investigation.

“The man, his wife and child were about to flee the country. If they could get out of the country, about 100 million baht would have gone with them, as they had already transferred it to the banks in a neighbouring country… We cooperated with Immigration officers to keep an eye on them after they took a flight from Phuket to Bangkok.”

In Pattaya last week, 200 people filed complaints with the police after losing money at SPM Shopping Mall. Officers suspect 10,000 people in Thailand fell victim to the scam.

People who lost money to the SPM Shopping Mall scam should file a report on Google Forms, police say. Click HERE to file a report.

Phuket fraud case crumbles: Dutchman cleared of shopping scam | News by Thaiger

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Petch Petpailin

Petpailin, or Petch, is a Thai translator and writer for The Thaiger who focuses on translating breakingThai news stories into English. With a background in field journalism, Petch brings several years of experience to the English News desk at The Thaiger. Before joining The Thaiger, Petch worked as a content writer for several known blogging sites in Bangkok, including Happio and The Smart Local. Her articles have been syndicated by many big publishers in Thailand and internationally, including the Daily Mail, The Sun and the Bangkok Post. She is a news writer who stops reading news on the weekends to spend more time cafe hopping and petting dwarf shrimp! But during office hours, you can find Petch on LinkedIn and you can reach her by email at petch@thethaiger.com.

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