Tranlee Travel assets seized in Phuket, Phang Nga raids

PHUKET: Investigators have seized buses, boats, land and millions of baht as they delve deep into the operations of Phuket-based tour operator Tranlee Travel Co Ltd.

Three teams of police simultaneously seized 33 boats and 57 buses in Phuket yesterday. They also raided Racha Spa Co Ltd, located in Phuket Villa 5 housing estate in Chalong. Police believe documents found there will reveal a paper trail of money being siphoned out of the country by the company.

Police pressed charges of ‘hiding procedures for the purpose of criminal activity’, while they continue to investigate the company’s other activities.

“Tourists will not be affected by the seizures as there are plenty of vehicles still available for them from other operators,” said Phuket Provincial Police Commander Teeraphol Thipjaroen, who led yesterday’s raids in Phuket.

Deputy National Police Commissioner Srivara Ransibhramanakul warned on Tuesday that other such companies found to have been established illegally face similar fates, as investigations continued to turn up Tranlee Travel assets in Phuket and Phang Nga.

Tranlee Travel senior director and shareholder Kritchakorn Roongmongkolnam, reportedly a foreign national, was arrested last month on suspicion he had passed himself off as a Thai national using counterfeit credentials to establish the company.

His partner, Weerachai Kampaiprapankul, is still on the run (story here).

Police believe that Mr Weerachai is still in Thailand.

“Six of the 17 companies operating under the Tranlee Travel umbrella have been ordered to shut down while they are investigated,” said the national police chief, who vowed to continue hunting down ‘nominee’ companies, no matter how big they were.

“Searches of Tranlee Travel properties have turned up hundreds of millions of baht worth of assets. 117 buses, 35 boats and three plots of land,” said Gen Srivara.

Investigations into the 330-room Blue Bay Resort in Phang Nga revealed that permission was given for the property to have only 76 rooms. Working there illegally were 21 tour guides and some of the staff were inappropriately dressed, said the general.

Boat operators were also found to be using unlicenced radio communications.

The Crime Suppression Division is also investigating how the company moved money out of Thailand.

— Kritsada Mueanhawong

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