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Crackdown on foreign criminals – spotlight on Phuket

FILE PHOTO: The Phuket News

The authorities in Thailand continue to crack down on foreign criminals operating businesses illegally, using Thai nominees, lacking work permits, overstaying and “stealing” Thai jobs.

Surapong Thanomjit from Provincial Police Region 8 says the Royal Thai Police and Interior Ministry are focusing on Phuket in particular, along with the islands of Surat Thani, where a dedicated task force has been created to crack down on foreign criminals and Thais assisting them with dodgy paperwork.

As the number of foreign tourists coming to Phuket increases year on year, the authorities are becoming concerned about the intentions of some. Surapong says foreign criminals may arrive pretending to be tourists and go on to commit crimes in the kingdom with fake long-term visa documentation.

One MP says he has received a number of complaints from Phuket locals, who say foreigners are taking their jobs.

Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana from the United Thai Nation Party says some foreigners are using Thai nominees, which enables them to set up businesses that break the rules on restricting certain occupations to Thai nationals.

”If such a company operates a restaurant, income will go to the company’s account and then will be transferred to the personal account of the foreigners. The money will then be sent overseas. In some cases, the money will be turned into digital assets.”

Thanakorn warns Thais not to cooperate or assist foreigners operating in this way.

“I want to warn Thais who act as nominees for foreigners. It is illegal. It is not worth the money and benefits you receive.”

According to a Bangkok Post report, the authorities have so far investigated over 60 businesses suspected of illegal practices, primarily in Phuket and Surat Thani provinces.

Montree Theskhan from the Crime Suppression Division says that as part of their investigation, the authorities focused on a Russian man thought to be involved in money laundering.

It’s understood the Russian was involved in the resale of cryptocurrency transfers and had withdrawn 186 million baht from bank accounts connected to a money laundering network. That network turned out to be connected to another 38 companies.

On April 3 and 4, the CSD raided 17 of those companies, all of them on Phuket. Officers seized two computers that allegedly contain a database of foreigner clients who want to register Thai businesses that would be used as shell companies. The authorities also confiscated around 500 documents and 50 corporate stamps.

Investigators also discovered the Russian had obtained his visa through a Thai company which had two Thai women and a Russian woman as its registered shareholders.

The Thai women were arrested and allegedly confessed to helping foreigners to obtain visas and work permits by setting up fake companies.

The Business Development Department says there are thought to be more than 400 companies using Thai nominees, including companies in the hospitality sector, such as hotels, restaurants, car hire businesses and real estate – many of the occupations usually reserved for Thais.

Checks are planned on a further 59 businesses in Phuket, with more investigations underway in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Surat Thani and Chon Buri (including Pattaya).

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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