Government officials search GTR Travel and Trading Co in Huai Khwang district, Bangkok, on Thursday. It was among three premises searched for allegedly being involved in a call scam tricking victims out of about 60 million baht. (Police photo)
Authorities arrested eight suspects, including two Chinese, for allegedly operating a call scam causing 60-million-baht damage and running travel agents to launder the illicit money.
Pol Maj Gen Somsit Weeriyasan, acting secretary-general of the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo), told the press on Thursday that the eight suspects were arrested on Wednesday.
They were among 49 suspects wanted for the scam in which the culprits claimed to be Thai and foreign authorities. They demanded money from Thai and foreign victims in Thailand in exchange for immunity from prosecution of narcotics and money laundering offences.
Apart from conventional phone calls, the gang used the Line chat application and created fake Line IDs to pretend to represent government organisations and lure the victims, Pol Maj Gen Somsit said.
The victims earlier filed 64 complaints with authorities in Bangkok, Samut Prakan, Chiang Mai, Songkhla, Phuket, Nakhon Ratchasima, Lampang and Sa Kaeo provinces. They reported 60 million baht in damage since 2010, he said.
According to him, the gang’s call centres were based in China and Taiwan. Of the 49 suspects, 20 are Thais who mostly opened bank accounts to receive money from the victims. The unidentified gang leader was at large. Most of the 29 foreign suspects are Chinese.
Arrested on Wednesday were 50-year-old Chinese Fang Yang Sheng, a Taiwanese woman, Anuroot Permtaweesap, 29, Panpaporn Sri-ondee, 24, Somporn Chuchuai, 39, Kulwadee Shimphet, Daranat Yangdeelert, and Ratana Ketsupan.
On Thursday morning, authorities searched three travel firms in Bangkok suspected of laundering money for the call scam gang.
They were Golden Rich Travel Co on Nualjan Road in Bung Kum district, GTR Travel and Trading Co on Ratchadaphisek Road in Huai Khwang, and UVT Travel and Trading Co on Ratchadaphisek Road in Huai Khwang.
According to sources, the companies operated tour services and sent Thai workers to Taiwan. They allegedly laundered money by keeping the Taiwanese dollars Thai workers sent back to Thailand and giving Thai baht received from call scam victims to the workers’ families in the country instead.