Russian nominee business bust exposes 1.5 billion baht scandal

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

In a dramatic crackdown on illegal businesses in Phuket, 231 suspects, including 98 foreign nationals, mostly Russians, have been arrested, revealing a scandal worth over 1.5 billion baht.

The Economic Crime Suppression Division (ECSD), under the directive of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) commissioner Police General Jirabhop Bhuridej, raided several accounting and real estate firms on the island. The operation resulted in pending charges against 96 legal entities and 135 individuals.

Pol. Gen. Jirabhop disclosed that the suspects comprised 98 foreigners, mainly Russians, and 37 Thais, who acted as nominees for foreign companies. These individuals were later granted bail. The foreign nationals were accused of running businesses unlawfully, using Thais to circumvent legal restrictions. The Thai suspects were charged with supporting these illegal activities.

The police seized an impressive array of assets, including 225 bank accounts with 319 million baht in circulation, 245 land documents (covering 96 condominium units worth about 1 billion baht and 43 title deeds for 24 rai of land worth approximately 200 million baht), 196 passports, 108 work permits, and documents linked to the establishment of 800 companies. Additionally, they confiscated 1,601 company stamps, four electronic devices, and other items.

This extensive operation was prompted by local complaints to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin about foreigners, mainly Russians, buying up property and running businesses at inflated prices, adversely affecting the local economy. Acting on these concerns, the prime minister directed Acting National Police Chief Kitrat Panphet to initiate a thorough investigation.

The ECSD’s probe revealed that since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war in early 2022, 59,717 Russians had entered Phuket, with a staggering 1,603 new businesses registered in the province. One notable case involved a 45 year old foreign woman named Iana, who held executive roles and shareholdings in nine companies, including real estate and tour firms, with a combined capital of 38 million baht. Investigators found that a Thai woman, Trithip, acted as a nominee for Iana and other businesses.

Pol. Maj. Gen. Phutthidet Boonkraphue, the ECSD commander, explained that they had gathered sufficient evidence to secure court approval for the arrests. During questioning, Trithip admitted to being paid between 30,000 to 50,000 baht per firm to act as a nominee, reported Bangkok Post.

The investigation is ongoing, with 85 foreign nationals already summoned to face charges.

Crime NewsPhuket NewsThailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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