Clipping the wings of travelling crooks
The arrest last week of a US national suspected of stealing cash and valuables from a resort marked the start of an ambitious campaign by immigration police to crack down on transnational criminals this year.
- Published: 14/01/2013 at 12:00 AM
- Newspaper section: topstories
Panu: Blitz on transnational gangs
The Immigration Bureau has declared it will weed out as many transnational criminals as it can in 2013 after some of them were found to have used Thailand as a base to commit crimes, bureau chief Panu Kerdlappol said.
Harris Jay Vertlieb, a 53-year-old businessman, was nabbed on Jan 9 on Sukhumvit Soi 13 in Bangkok by immigration and Koh Samui police.
He allegedly stole more than 2 million baht worth of cash and valuables from the Seascape Beach Resort at the resort island in Surat Thani province.
Of the stolen items, 80,000 baht was cash which the suspect allegedly took from 52 safe deposit boxes kept by a tourist agency at the hotel.
Police claim he drugged two hotel staff and a security guard on Jan 7 before stealing the items.
Mr Vertlieb denied the accusation.
The suspect, who claims to be a Singapore-based internet advertising businessman, said he came to Thailand to work and have a holiday, and had visited Thailand three times before.
The Immigration Bureau says hotels are popular targets among thieves from Latin American countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Guatemala, which have all sent criminals to Thailand.
They often steal valuables from elderly and female hotel guests. The group is also notorious for stealing items from homes and jewellery shops.
These gangsters are active in the Sukhumvit, Bang Chan and Thawi Watthana areas of Bangkok. Tourist provinces such as Chon Buri, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Songkhla are also targeted.
A second big group of transnational criminals is from Africa, and a third from Iran and Iraq. These criminals are involved in the drug trade. The Iranian and Iraqi suspects often smuggle crystal methamphetamines into Thailand from Afghanistan.
A fourth group is from South Asia, and is particularly active in areas such as Phahurat in Bangkok.
These criminals are often involved in document and passport forgery, enabling their holders to travel illegally to Japan, Europe, the United States and Australia.
The fifth group, made up of Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong nationals, are involved in telephone scams which fool Thais in transferring money to them.
The sixth group comprises criminals from Japan and South Korea. They commit mafia-style crimes, collecting protection fees from Japanese and Korean businessmen in Thailand. They also procure Thai women to work as prostitutes overseas, Pol Lt Gen Panu said.
Russian criminals make up the seventh transnational criminal group, running prostitution rackets in major tourism provinces.
The eighth group of criminals is from Malaysia and Singapore and the ninth is made up of criminals from Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. These are often involved in forging credit cards.
Also from South East Asia are Filipino, Indonesian and Vietnamese criminal suspects, who make up the 10th group. They are involved in crooked business investments and gambling.
Some also work in Thailand illegally as restaurant staff, singers and language teachers, Pol Lt Gen Panu added.
The last group of transnational criminals is from Europe and America. These people often hatch computer-related crimes which require knowledge of advanced technologies.
This group also uses Thailand as a hideout after committing crimes abroad.
Pol Lt Gen Panu said most overseas visitors are innocent tourists and will be treated as such. However, those who come here to commit crimes will be met with the full force of the law.
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About the author
- Writer: Wassayos Ngamkham
- Position: Reporter