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Phuket

Chinese scam gang banged up in Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Police yesterday arrested 40 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals in Phuket who were believed to be involved in an international extortion and money-laundering scam.

More than 70 police officers from Phuket and Bangkok raided six homes in Bang Tao, Kathu and Phuket City after following the gang for several months on a trail that began in Chiang Mai.

One of the houses raided was a mansion in upmarket Bang Tao, which the gang was using as its headquarters.

Police said the gang rented the house, which came complete with its own swimming pool, for 100,000 baht per month.

Inside the house, police found hardware connected to databases filled with personal information on consumers in China and Taiwan.

A police spokesperson said the consumers’ information was divided into categories of income and location.

The scammers used that information to contact their victims and trick them using a variety of pre-scripted scenarios, pretending to be officials such as bank workers, police officers or debt collectors.

The scammers would then convince the victims to go to banks or ATMs and trick them into revealing account details so money could be taken from their accounts or persuade the victims to transfer funds.

The money would then be withdrawn in Thailand. The scammers used the China Unionpay banking network to access the money and Smart Billing software to track the money transfers in real time.

The phone systems the gangs used disguised the fact they were calling from Thailand; to the victims, they appeared to be local callers.

Deputy CIB chief, Police Major General Panya Mamen said the gang was believed to have scammed more than Bt1 billion from its victims.

He said the gang used the vast profits from its Thailand operation to purchase bars and properties, using Thai nationals as front men, and large amounts of money had been moved between Thailand, Shanghai, Taiwan and the Chengdu islands.

Police found 79 VoIP telephones, 41 VoIP modems, 65 mobile phones, 12 laptops, 31 passports and 200,000 baht in cash as well as two grams of crystal meth (ice) during the raids.

Rubber stamps similar to those used by Chinese government agencies were also discovered during the raid on the luxury Phuket residence.

Police believe the stamps were used by the scammers to create fake documents to carry out their scams.

Bangkok Tourist Police Commander, Adit Knamjitsuksri, Phuket Police Commander Pikad Tantipong and the Deputy Police Commander of the Central Investigation Bureau Panya Mamen personally led yesterday’s raids.

Commander Panya said the gang had been operating in Thailand for some time.

He said police initially planned to arrest the gang last year when they were working out of Chiang Mai.

However, after the gang was tipped off that police were closing in, the gang members fled to Bangkok, and then to Pattaya, before ending up in Phuket.

Those arrested in Phuket were taken to Cherng Talay, Kamala and Phuket City police stations and will be held until a court hearing in about a month’s time.

Police said the 40 gang members were mostly young adults and included 30 men and ten women. They have been charged with extortion and working without work permits.

Maj Gen Panya said further charges of swindling and forgery were likely to be laid when investigations were complete.

Commander Adit said this was an issue of national security and asked the public to be vigilant and contact the police if they knew of houses occupied by large groups of people who are obviously not tourists or residents.

He also emphasized that landlords can be arrested and charged if they allow their property to be used for criminal activity or if they fail to notify authorities of foreign tenants.

— Khunakorn Terdkiatkhachorn

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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