Fake visa stamps probe faltering
PHUKET: The investigation into the alleged issue of 20 fake entry permits by a Phuket-based visa service company appears to have stalled at the Sadao Police Station, which is now in charge of the case. Last December Phuket Immigration officers seized 20 passports with forged exit and entry stamps during a raid on the visa and accounting company, but were unable to press charges because the Immigration officers did not observe the company’s workers actually stamping the passports with the bogus visas. It has never been clarified whether the rubber stamps used to forge the exit and entry stamps were completely fake or whether they were genuine, possibly outdated stamps that were misused. The case was transferred to Sadao, Songkhla, because the fake stamps purported to come from the Sadao Immigration Office. Pol Col Witawat Buranasompop, Superintendent of the Phuket Immigration Office, told the Gazette that the case was transferred to the Sadao Police last month. “We did an initial investigation and then transferred this case to Sadao Police Station, though we suspect the fake stamps actually came from Phuket,” he said. Pol Col Surin Pararae, Superintendent of Sadao Immigration, told the Gazette that it was “impossible” for fake stamps to have come from the Sadao Immigration checkpoint because of strict procedures in place there. “We have video surveillance cameras recording activity at all five police booths. It would be very difficult to issue fake visas,” he said. “I’m still waiting for the results of the investigation but I haven’t received them yet,” Col Surin added. He said that about 30 people had been arrested at the checkpoint since December and charged with possession of fake entry stamps. He said the stamps had been issued by tour companies preying on naïve foreigners. “When they come here with a fake stamp they are arrested. The fake stamps come from tour companies around the country that lie to tourists. “Nevertheless, [the law requires that] the holders of [passports containing] fake stamps must be deported,” he said. On a more positive note, Col Surin noted that more foreigners than ever are now making visas trips in person, and that the increase was noticeable to the Immigration Police at Sadao, Thailand’s most heavily-used land border crossing.
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