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Resort under investigation for alleged laundering

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PHUKET: A four-star hotel in Koh Yao Yai has had it’s assets frozen, after officers from the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) began investigating whether the resort is being used to launder money and evade taxes for the embattled Tranlee Travel Co Ltd.

During a joint task force raid on Saturday, AMLO officers said they were inspecting Blue Bay Resort’s land documents, and suspect that the 330-room luxury hotel was being used to shelter profits for the travel group under investigation.

Police arrested a Tranlee senior director and shareholder on June 15 for allegedly faking two Thai national ID cards used to register the company. Another director has reportedly fled the country (story here).

In early July, investigators seized buses, boats, land and millions of baht from Tranlee as part of their investigations into the operations of the Phuket-based tour operator (story here).

“When we arrived at the hotel we were greeted by a Mr Wittaya, who claimed to be the resort’s director, and another person named Mr Apichat, who claimed to be the operation’s lawyer,” said AMLO officer Piya Sriwika. “The pair claimed that they had recently bought the rights to the hotel and had taken over management of the property in May.”

“We believe that the hotel’s assets are part of a money laundering and tax-evasion operation,” Mr Piya said. “We will freeze Blue Bay Resort’s assets for 90 days while we look at their books. The business still can run normally, but the revenue and all assets will be under the control of the AMLO. This way it will not affect tourism,” said Mr Piya.

The joint task force, led by Tourist Police Commander Suchet Hakpan, comprised officials and officers from the AMLO, Phang Nga Province, Phang Nga Provincial Police, Phuket Provincial Police, the Marine Police, the Forestry Department, the Department of Business Development and Army personnel.

The Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Division is also checking Blue Bay Resort’s land documents.

“Initially, they presented seven pieces of land ownership documents, covering more than 19 rai,” General Suchet said. “We then divided the task force into seven groups to measure the plots and noted all of the developments for further investigation.”

“We will transparently look into the land documents and will take every precaution not to disturb the island’s tourism,” he added.

During the task force raid, officers found that more than 40 per cent of the resort’s guests had moved out of the hotel.

— Kritsada Mueanhawong

 

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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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