British couple arrested in Patong

PHUKET TOWN: A British couple arrested for working illegally in Thailand were released yesterday after posting bail of 200,000 baht each with Phuket Provincial Court. Pol Lt Col Panudej Sookwong, Superintendent of the Phuket Tourist Police, identified the couple as 38-year-old Timothy Jones and Frances Christodolou, 40. Their arrests followed an allegation by a tourist that the pair swindled her out of 10,200 baht for a trip to Phi Phi Island that never materialized. “A tourist named Pauline Swain, also from Britain, came to the Tourist Police booth in Patong on December 6,” he explained. “She said she had been cheated by a tour company run by ‘Mr Tim’, who promised her a tour to Phi Phi Island. “On the day arranged for the tour, a car was supposed to pick her up from her hotel. But it never arrived, so she reported the incident to the Tourist Police,” he said. Tourist Police escorted Ms Swain back to the Holiday Inn, where she called the couple to ask for her money back. Christodolou came to the hotel, apologized for the mistake, and repaid her in full. After witnessing this, the Tourist Police moved in and asked Christodolou to accompany them for questioning at the Kathu Police box at the Taweewong-Bangla Junction, where she was later joined by Jones. Officials from both the Kathu and Tourist police then took the couple to their apartment at Toy Residence in Nanai Rd. An inspection of their passports revealed that both had visas that had expired on August 3, and that they were therefore in the country illegally. They also found evidence that the pair had been operating an unregistered tour company. “We found more than 10 copies of invoices they issued to customers as well as advertising brochures which read, ‘Mr Tim can help you with everything – diving tours, sea-canoing, island trips, motorcycle rentals’ and so on,” he said. He added that ironically – given that the couple had overstayed their visas for more than four months – their brochures also listed “visa runs” among the many services they offered. He said that the investigation failed to turn up any evidence that the couple were involved in organizing “sex tours”, as was reported in at least two other newspapers. Police are, however, investigating the pair for operating an unregistered tour business. “They had contacts with many travel companies and told the customers that if they booked trips through them they could get a 5-10% discount,” Col Panudej explained, adding that the couple also used contacts within hotels to drum up business. When asked why alleged swindlers would apologize to customers and return money to them, Col Panudej told the Gazette that it was possible that the pair were unaware that their activities were illegal. He added that investigators also found a document issued by the Kathu Police giving the couple permission to do research “on the effect of Sars in Phuket”. He said he believed they may have used this to ward off any police officers curious about their activities.

Phuket News
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