Police get wise to Russian crime
Tourist areas are infested by influential foreign mobsters with concealed identities
Immigration Bureau police are looking to better regulate expatriates who have been living in Thailand long enough to have become influential figures in major tourist districts.
Many are transnational criminals hiding in Thailand whose real identities are revealed only after they've been arrested.
To fight these criminal activities, the Immigration Bureau, along with local police, local administrative bodies and other state agencies are now implementing a crime suppression policy called "Good guys in, bad guys out", said bureau chief Nathathorn Prousoontorn.
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On March 24, Russian national Matvey Shuvalov, 45, was arrested and his visa revoked after authorities found he had been hiding in Thailand for more than two decades.
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During his time here, he married a Thai woman, had four children, learned to speak Thai, built a rapport with many local state officials and had become an influential figure in Phuket. The suspect was handed over to Russian police, who took him back to his home country to face prosecution.
Prior to his arrest, the Russian consulate in Thailand contacted the bureau to inform them that Mr Shuvalov was wanted by Russian police in a high-profile fraud case. Following this, the suspect's passport was taken away from him and an Interpol warrant issued for his arrest, the chief said.
The suspect was also found to have been involved in fraud cases worth more than 9 million baht in Phuket, said Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn. A look at Mr Shuvalov's immigration history over the past 10 years revealed he had left and re-entered Thailand several times.
"Because he had lived here for a long time, he had money, had a Thai family, and gained a good reputation, he became an influential expat who could intimidate other foreign business people.
He made foreign owners of small businesses in the area turn to him for assistance first when it came to business negotiations," said Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn.
A few days earlier, the bureau had apprehended a total of 14 transnational criminal suspects mostly from Russia and Eastern Europe, in a major crackdown on mafia-style gangs in Pattaya city.
They were six Russian nationals, one Ukrainian national, one Belarusian national, four Uzbekistan nationals, one Moroccan national and one Iranian national.
Some Russian suspects fled to Thailand after getting entangled in drug and financial crimes in their country.
"These people have formed criminal gangs, stolen jobs from locals -- at restaurants, entertainment venues, car rental businesses and other places -- not to mention operated illegal businesses in the tourism sector involved in the sex and drug trades," said Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn.
For instance, these transnational criminal gangs were found to have been using women from countries in Eastern Europe to run prostitution rings, he said, adding the gangs were also involved in crimes against foreigners doing businesses in Thailand.
Among the 14 suspects detained in the Pattaya crackdown, four Russian nationals were wanted on arrest warrants issued by Russian police and Interpol red notices, he said.
The first one was Aleksandr Danilov, 43, who was allegedly running a mafia-style drug gang.
He admitted to having been previously arrested and faced prosecution in a drug case before escaping to Thailand, police said. He lived mainly in Pattaya and Phuket.
The second Russian suspect arrested was Mikhail Kriventsov who was wanted by Interpol on charges of dealing in heroin.
The Russian embassy in Thailand contacted Thai police to inform them the suspect was wanted by Russian authorities.
The third Russian suspect detained was Anton Filippov who was wanted by Russian authorities for defying a court order and absconding.
The suspect left and re-entered Thailand on eight occasions. His last Thai visa allowed him to stay here until April 30.
The fourth Russian suspect arrested was Sergei Mareev who was wanted by both Russian police and Interpol.
The suspect, who is HIV-positive, had multiple female sexual partners.
During his arrest, police found a package containing illicit drugs on him in a sting operation in which a female police officer posed as a potential sexual partner to meet him.