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HOME // National News // Thailand Privilege Card may be “letting criminals in through back door”

Thailand Privilege Card may be “letting criminals in through back door”

PHOTO: Launch of new Thailand Privilege Card

The spotlight is falling on the Thai Privilege Card, the latest iteration of the Thailand Elite Visa, after a number of foreign criminals operating in Thailand have been found to be staying in the country using this long term visa, and abusing the system for criminal activities.

Thailand’s Central Investigation Bureau  is intensifying efforts to address the issue of foreign nationals using the expensive elite visas for “illicit activities” in Thailand. This came to light after the arrest of a Chinese national, Chen Yon La, who allegedly laundered large sums of money for call centre scam gangs using a Thailand Privilege Card visa as his means of staying in the country.

The Thailand Privilege Card allows people to stay in the country for 5, 10 or 20 years with an upfront payment, costing many times more than other long-term visas in Thailand and providing a number of ‘privileges’ including fast tracking at immigration when you arrive at airports, multiple entries and getting your 90 day reports done for you.

Chen, along with a Thai accomplice, was apprehended during a raid in Bangkok last month, where authorities seized significant assets, including cash, computers, and cars.

The investigation, stemming from the arrest of five call centre gang members last year, revealed the involvement of Chen and others in managing digital wallets for illegal transactions.

Investigating police maintain that these criminals have been exploiting Thailand’s long term visa for “money laundering purposes”. In this case, Chen used his Thailand Privilege Card, obtained through the Thailand Privilege Card Company Limited supervised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, to facilitate his criminal activities.

The CIB says they are concerned about the need to check who is abusing these visas and insists that there needs to be better background checks on financial sources for privilege card applicants. Moreover, they highlight the importance of information sharing among relevant authorities to combat these crimes effectively – in this case the TAT and Thai Immigration services.

Chen’s case underscored the challenges posed by evolving tactics of criminal networks, including the use of cryptocurrencies to evade detection. The CIB says they are now collaborating with banks, regulatory bodies and digital asset businesses to develop better strategies to prevent similar incidents in the future.

They also acknowledge the ongoing threat posed by call centre scam gangs and underscores the importance of proactive measures to safeguard against financial losses.

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