Appeal Court fines zero-dollar tour operators B500,000

Appeal Court fines zero-dollar tour operators B500,000

Wasurat Rojrungrangsi (left) and his sister Saithip hold a press conference after they were acquitted in a zero-dollar tour court case in September last year. The Appeal Court upheld the acquittal for them, their parents and their companies on Thursday while fining three other defendants. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Wasurat Rojrungrangsi (left) and his sister Saithip hold a press conference after they were acquitted in a zero-dollar tour court case in September last year. The Appeal Court upheld the acquittal for them, their parents and their companies on Thursday while fining three other defendants. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The Appeal Court has partially overturned a lower court's decision and fined three defendants 500,000 baht each while acquitting 10 other suspects in the zero-dollar tour case.

The Court of the First Instance acquitted all 13 defendants in August last year for insufficient evidence.

The three defendants who were fined are Somkiat Khongcharoen, 59, Thawal Jaemchokechai, 61, and Winit Chantharamanee, 71, who are directors of Fuan Travel Co Ltd.

The Appeal Court found them guilty of luring foreign tourists with cheap fees and later making a profit by bringing them to buy products at inflated prices.

By offering zero-dollar tour service, they took advantage of tourists and tarnished the Thai tourism industry, the court said.

The Appeal Court based the ruling on the testimonies of executives of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Department of Tourism.

Meanwhile, the Appeal Court acquitted Nisa Rojrungrangsi, 63, managing director of Royal Gems International Co, Thai Herb Co, Bangkok Handicraft Centre Co and Royal Paradise Co; her husband Thongchai, 62; their son Wasurat, 28, managing director of OA Transport; and their daughter Saithip, 37, director of Baan Kanom Thongthip. Their six companies, which run transport and retail businesses were also defendants in the case.

The Appeal Court ruled that the 10 other defendants did not run tourism businesses but only leased buses to tour firms or sold foods and products. Besides, the tourists never complained the defendants took advantage of them.

Public prosecutors filed the case in October 2016, charging them with illegal association, money laundering, operating tourism services for free which may cause damage to the tourism industry, taking advantage of tourists and operating tourism services without permission.

They said all the defendants colluded with one another in bringing inbound tourists through cheap tour packages so they could buy products at exorbitant prices from shops in their network from March 24 to Aug 31, 2016. The prosecutors estimated damage from the alleged crime at 98 million baht. All of the defendants denied the charges.

It's unclear whether the prosecutors would appeal the ruling.


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