Nominee search turns up 400 firms

Nominee search turns up 400 firms

Hospitality sector under govt scrutiny

More than 400 companies in popular tourism cities tend to operate their businesses using nominees, according to the Business Development Department.

Auramon Supthaweethum, the department director-general, on Wednesday said staff had carried out an inspection of firms suspected of acting as nominees for foreign corporations in major tourism provinces including Phuket, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Surat Thani and Chon Buri. In-depth inspections were conducted on businesses in the hospitality sector, including those managing tour guides, restaurants, car rentals and hotels, and real estate.

The agency found that 419 firms may be acting as business nominees; 313 of them were ordered to submit more documents for verification.

The department is also working with the Tourism Department and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to check 59 firms suspected to be operating as nominees in Phuket.

One of the 59 firms is the Elephant Sanctuary Park Phuket run by Urs "David" Fehr, 45 -- a Swiss man who stirred controversy for allegedly kicking a doctor whom he accused of trespassing on his rented resort last month -- and his Thai wife, Khanuengnit.

Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Business Development Department

An investigation showed the firm was registered as a tour guide business with three shareholders. Checks confirmed 51% of the shares are held between Ms Khanuengnit and another Thai, while the remaining 49% is owned by Mr Fehr. Thus, the firm is not considered to be operating under a nominee.

The inspection followed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by the Tourism Department to resolve proxy tourism businesses through the cooperation of six agencies -- the Tourism Department, the office of the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Department of Business Development, the DSI, the Tourist Police Bureau and the Immigration Bureau.

An operation centre was established at the Tourism Department to solve the proxy business problem. Also, a joint panel was up and running to design measures to elevate the standard of tourism businesses.

Turning to the doctor assault case, Phuket deputy governor Sattha Thongkham said the province has proposed revoking Mr Fehr's visa due to his character, which, in its view, poses a danger to public order and safety. The final decision on visa revocation rests with the court as Mr Fehr is entitled to remain in the kingdom to mount a defence in the legal case. The province will inform the Phuket provincial immigration office about its visa cancellation recommendation, Mr Sattha said.

Meanwhile, the steps where the doctor was assaulted at Yamu beach in Thalang district were being demolished by Tambon Pa Klok Municipality after they were found to have encroached on public land. Authorities have said they will also inspect all public areas in Phuket for any encroachment.

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