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Legal fracas over alleged swindling of dive boat



Legal fracas over alleged swindling of dive boat | Thaiger

BANGKOK: Two Norwegian operators of the 85-million-baht M/Y Viking of The Orient have sought help from the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) in Bangkok, claiming they were cheated when one of their Thai employees signed ownership of the vessel over to a local moneylender to cover an unpaid debt of seven million baht.

Norwegians Einar Meling, Managing Director of Viking Cruises (Thailand) Co Ltd, and his partner Lennart Holmgren on March 9 met with Pol Col Dutsadee Arayawut, who heads the DSI’s Information Technology and Investigation Center in Bangkok.

The Scandinavians told Col Dusadee they were cheated out of possession of the 35-meter vessel by their Thai partner, who they claim transferred ownership of the boat without their consent.

Asking that his name not be printed, Mr Meling’s Bangkok-based lawyer told the Gazette that Viking Cruises had borrowed seven million baht from a moneylender when the company ran into financial trouble during the 2003 Sars scare, which caused tourist arrivals to plummet.

The lawyer told the Gazette that the Phuket Appeals Court on March 13 issued a court order to freeze transfer of the boat to the unpaid creditor, whose name has not been released.

The Phuket Provincial Court had earlier ruled that ownership of the boat be consigned to the creditor in lieu of payment.

DSI Deputy Inspector Pol Capt Pitsanu Chimtrakul told the Gazette that he has forwarded Mr Meling’s case file to the DSI Director General’s office and is awaiting orders.

“We have to determine whether or not this case falls under the area of responsibility of the DSI, which was set up to investigate organized crime or criminal cases involving government officials.

“If it doesn’t, we will have to hand the case back to the local police. But it appears that these two Norwegians are not happy with the work of local police and that is why they contacted us for help,” he said.

One Thai-language newspaper reported that a high-ranking civil servant was among those involved in the alleged swindle.

Phuket City Police Superintendent Lt Col Nos Svettalekha told the Gazette that the case had already gone through the courts as a civil case, but that the Norwegians felt the verdict was unfair to them.

The Norwegians sent a lawyer to Phuket City Police Station to file a complaint of fraud on their behalf, but the attorney was told the men had to file in person.

“They haven’t come yet, but we are ready to accept their complaint when they do,” said Col Nos.


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