Russian ruse: Massive Thai visa scam exposed

Photo courtesy of Thai PBS World

Thai police dismantled a sprawling network that illegally enabled foreigners, predominantly Russians, to secure long-term stays in Thailand through deceptive company setups. This elaborate scheme, orchestrated by a 45 year old Russian woman and her Thai accomplice, has rocked the idyllic province of Phuket.

Police revealed that the Russian mastermind arrived in Thailand in 2012 and, alongside a Thai woman, facilitated the registration of over 270 shell companies. These companies were fronts to sidestep Thai laws that limit foreign business ownership to 49%, a rule designed to safeguard local competition.

Puttidej Bunkrapue, commander of the police Economic Crime Suppression Division explained that foreigners can operate a business in Thailand, but it must be a joint venture with a Thai partner. Through this illicit service, foreigners were either listed as shareholders or employed by these shell entities, securing them work permits and long-term residency.

The bust has led to charges against 98 foreigners, including 68 Russians, for operating businesses without proper permits. The penalty for such offences can reach up to three years in prison and a fine of 1 million baht. Additionally, 37 Thai nationals face charges related to their involvement in the network.

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Authorities suspect the operation has been running since 2016 but noted a surge in clientele following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Chief investigator Krit Woratat confirmed that at least 50 foreigners had been officially charged by yesterday.

Phuket, renowned for its stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife, has seen a marked influx of Russian tourists and expatriates. From 2019 to early 2024, over 90,000 Russians visited the province, reported Thai PBS World.

The number of companies registered under Russian names skyrocketed to over 1,600 from 2023 to early 2024, a dramatic increase compared to the annual average of 30 companies between 2016 and 2022.

In related news, Phuket Tourist Police nabbed two Chinese nationals and one Myanmar national for working illegally on an audacious cable installation operation to provide Chinese TV channels in Phuket Town. Acting on an anonymous tip-off, officers swooped on the roof of an apartment building on Yaowarat Road, catching the five foreigners red-handed.

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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