Crypto crime tipped to go through roof
Crimes involving cryptocurrencies are expected to increase in the near future as Thailand is still badly in need of personnel equipped with knowledge and modern technology to deal with cybercrime, a seminar was told Thursday.
Kittipong Kittayarak, the executive director of the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ), said that a collaborative study carried out by the TIJ and the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute shows that nefarious activities involving transnational organised crime are rising in Thailand.
They include ID cards and travel document forgery, money laundering, drug smuggling, human trafficking, call centre scams, and credit card information theft.
The study also identifies challenges faced by Thai agencies involved in the justice system.
"This includes human resource constraints, a lack of effective inter-agency communication due to officials' lack of proficiency in foreign languages, and bureaucratic red tape," said Mr Kittipong, a former permanent secretary for justice.
At a seminar titled "Advancing the Economy and Combating Crime in the Digital Age: Cryptocurrency and Crime", which was jointly held by the TIJ and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Mr Kittipong said Thailand still needs to work on developing technologies and innovations as tools to combat transnational crimes, particularly cybercrime involving the use of cryptocurrencies.
He said the UNODC has revealed that many criminal gangs have used cryptocurrencies to launder money and provide financial support for terrorists.
Cryptocurrencies have also been used to pay kidnap ransoms, and buy child pornography, illicit drugs, malware and firearms on the dark web, whose popularity is rising among criminal gangs, Mr Kittipong said.
Currently, there are not many criminal cases involving cryptocurrencies, but such crimes are expected to rise quickly in the near future, he said.
Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Prajin Juntong said the government has set up the National Cyber Security Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
However, he admitted that the committee still lacks knowledge and the experience to administer computer servers. It is necessary to learn and build up networks to work together to prevent cybercrime, he said.
Julien Garsany, the UNODC's deputy regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said that more than 6 billion cybercrime cases occur in the region annually.
Criminal gangs have reaped 100 billion baht of profits from illegal transactions, while causing about 150 billion baht of damage to the regional economy each year, Mr Garsany said.
A recent bitcoin scandal in which a Finnish investor and a Thai businesswoman were swindled out of almost 800 million baht worth of bitcoins is a case in point.
The Crime Suppression Division has pressed fraud charges against five suspects, which include 27-year-old actor Jiratpisit "Boom" Jaravijit, and his brother Prinya Jiratpisit who according to police, masterminded the scam. Bitcoins were used to buy stocks which the victims claimed they never received.
Mr Prinya reportedly fled to the US just as the scam came to public attention.