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Phuket ‘nominee’ company crackdown – 231 arrested

In a major operation targeting nominee companies and dodgy real estate businesses in Phuket, 231 suspects have been rounded up and arrested, including 98 foreign nationals, mostly Russians. The Economic Crime Suppression Division seized assets valued at over 1.5 billion baht.

There has been an incredible increase of property developments and sales over the past two years, resulting in an artificial rise in property prices, fueled by many of these illegal companies, dodgy sales and documentation. Other Thai nominee companies raided have involved foreigners conducting businesses reserved only for Thais.

Acting on directions from the PM and senior police, the crackdown led by the Central Investigation Bureau, involved searches of accounting and real estate companies across the island. Charges are now pending against 96 juristic persons (legal signatories but not necessarily involved in the day-to-day business), and 135 individuals.

There would also be many local accounting and consulting firms involved in the set up of these ‘fake’ nominee companies but have not been named in this report.

Of the arrested, 37 are Thai nationals and the remaining 98 are foreign nationals. These individuals were acting as nominees for “foreign” companies and were later granted bail. Foreign suspects face charges for operating businesses illegally or with unauthorised support from Thai nationals. Thai suspects were charged with aiding the operations.

In one case, a 45 year old foreigner, identified as “Iana”, was involved in 9 of the companies, including 7 real estate firms. These companies were linked to 3 luxury condo projects valued at nearly 1 billion baht. A Thai woman, identified as “Trithip”, was acting as company nominee for Iana and other foreign nationals, serving as a nominee for 272 firms for payments between 30,000 – 50,000 baht per company.

In all Thai companies, excepting BOI and a few other rare exceptions, Thai citizens have to own 51% of the shares – foreigners can only own up to 49% of the shares. Foreigners cannot own a Thai company by themselves.

The operation seized a range of assets, including 225 bank accounts with 319 million baht in circulation, 245 land documents for properties valued about 1.2 billion baht, 196 passports, 108 work permits, and documents related to 800 companies.

1,601 company stamps and four electronic devices were confiscated.

The crackdown followed complaints from local residents to the Thai PM Srettha Thavisin about foreign nationals, mainly Russians, driving up property prices and displacing Thai jobs with their businesses. Acting national police chief Kitrat Panphet then directed relevant agencies to investigate.

The investigation revealed that 59,717 Russian nationals had entered Phuket since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war in early 2022, coinciding with an astonishing 1,603 new business registrations in the province.

Additionally, summonses have been issued to 85 foreign nationals involved in these nominee businesses. The sting is ongoing, with further charges expected.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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