CHERNG TALAY: A squad of some 10 officers from the Bangkok-based Economic Crimes Unit (ECU) yesterday raided one of Phuket’s biggest property development companies, Asia Island Homes (AIH), and arrested two people for work permit violations. Sources who asked not to be named told the Gazette that the investigators arrived at about midday, armed with a search warrant issued by the Phuket Provincial Court, and blocked all entrances to the offices. They told managers and employees to stop using computers, not to answer telephones or go near fax or photocopying machines, and to turn off their mobile phones. They then took copies of financial documents, printed out sales records from the company’s computers, and photographed all personnel. Managing Director Grant Radonich told the Gazette, “They seemed to be looking at company structure, and they found that we are a squeaky-clean company.” During their investigations the ECU officers discovered that two foreigners in the office did not have work permits. The two, Claire Mossop and Jim Harley, were arrested and taken to Cherng Talay police station where they were charged and subsequently released on bail of 50,000 baht each. Of the two staff members arrested, Mr Radonich said that an application for a work permit for Ms Mossop was already in process before the raid took place, while Mr Harley “had just come in to bring some documents”. In response to rumors that the raid was part of a money-laundering investigation, Mr Radonich said, “We pushed them about that, but they said that [the raid stemmed] from a complaint. They didn’t say what it was about or who it had come from.” He added that AIH was looking into the legal aspects of such a complaint and hoped to find out who had made it. The sources told the Gazette that they understood that AIH was only the first in a “hit list” of companies the ECU officers will be visiting. This could not be verified. Pol Maj Siriwat Inyim, inspector of Cherng Talay Police Station said, however, that the ECU officers had already returned to Bangkok. He added that the investigators had not told local police they were coming, and did not say why AIH had been targeted. “I don’t know exactly why the officers went to this company – they keep their reasons secret – but I don’t think it was only because of a work permit problem. I heard that the officers got a complaint from someone and came to check. “Police from Bangkok don’t have to inform us first when they come here to conduct a raid,” he said.
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