Brit fraud fugitive nabbed in Phuket

PHUKET: A British expat arrested in Phuket today was on a list of fugitives wanted by an international division of the UK’s Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA), the Phuket Gazette has learned.

Paul Ridden, 58, was arrested today after being fooled into meeting a friend in front of Chalong Police Station.

When he drove into the police station car park, his exit was blocked by other vehicles behind him.

“When he pulled up, Tourist Police volunteer Gary Halpin reached in and removed the key from the ignition,” said fellow volunteer Jum Ali Khan.

The move to lure Mr Ridden to capture today follows a Chalong Police attempt to bring him in for questioning yesterday after a fellow expat complained of being cheated out of 75,000 baht.

Sussex Police in the UK appealed to the public for help in finding Mr Ridden in June after he jumped police bail in April.

The appeal, which said Mr Ridden was wanted for “numerous fraud offenses”, was carried nationwide, including on the BBC website.

The appeal was issued by Detective Constable Rick Kent, Senior Officer, Operations, of SOCA’s Middle East and Asia division.

Speaking to the Phuket Gazette tonight, Mr Ridden confirmed that he had been contacted by the British Embassy in Bangkok, but he declined to answer any questions related to why he was wanted by the UK authorities.

After taking Mr Ridden into custody, Police Col Boonlert Onklang noticed that the Eastbourne native had overstayed his visa.

Mr Ridden will spend tonight in detention at the station, and will be presented in court tomorrow to face a fine for his immigration infraction.

However, that may not be the end of his problems in Phuket.

At least six people were lining up at Chalong Police Station tonight to file complaints against him.

All the complaints related to Mr Ridden having allegedly deceived or cheated the plaintiffs out of money.

One woman told the Gazette that he borrowed her motorbike and then rented it out to tourists.

Mr Ridden also hired cars from local rental operators, then rented them out to tourists, “like subletting,” one man said.

“There are eight cars in total,” he added.

Another person ready to file a complaint said he rented a car from Mr Ridden and was still waiting for his deposit to be returned. “That was two weeks ago,” he said.

Yet Mr Ridden claimed that he himself was a victim of deceit.

“I was just trying to run a business in Thailand. What happened was that the guy I came to work with said he would get me a work permit, so I gave him 65,000 baht. That was three months ago,” he said.

Mr Ridden said that he was working with a local firm that installs CCTV systems.

“I was like a sub-agent. I was getting the job and they were fitting it. Their manager told me that he could get a work permit for me if I worked for them for a year, so I gave him the money. But the boss never knew about it,” he said.

“The paperwork that was signed – which I still have – was all forged by the manager. And they know about it. That’s how it all started,” he said.

Mr Ridden said that the 75,000 baht involved in the original Phuket complaint was saved in a bank account.

“The money was for getting the man a visa, but he found a cheaper way and decided to do it himself. But to get the visa [the man wanted], he needed to have money in a bank account, and that’s where it is. I will give it all back,” he said.

He also said that he had been in touch with several people – and in front of the Gazette he specifically asked for certain people to come and see him – so he could give the car registration books back.

Mr Ridden also asked that the Thai man he had hired to help him to run his business not be involved, especially since the Thai man’s wife was one month pregnant.

— A Khamlo / C Yongcharoenchai

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