OA Transport faces B7bn tax evasion probe for zero-dollar case

OA Transport faces B7bn tax evasion probe for zero-dollar case

Police seized dozens of OA Transport buses last year when the government announced a crackdown on 'zero-dollar tours' and the family that owns the company has complained of harassment. (File photo)
Police seized dozens of OA Transport buses last year when the government announced a crackdown on 'zero-dollar tours' and the family that owns the company has complained of harassment. (File photo)

The Royal Thai Police (RTP) have set up an investigative panel to probe embattled OA Transport Co and its subsidiaries which are suspected of dodging 7 billion baht of taxes in connection with zero-dollar tour scams.

Piyapan Pingmuang, chief of the Economic Crime Suppression Division (ECD), said Monday the panel was proposed by the agency and approved by national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda.

His deputy Rungroj Sangkram, who supervises the RTP's legal affairs, will chair the panel.

Pol Maj Gen Piyapan said investigators will expedite the probe as the government gave precedence to the case which has dealt the country's tourism economy a blow, resulting in huge losses that have yet to be calculated.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Pol Gen Chakthip instructed the panel to conduct a fair and transparent investigation, Pol Maj Gen Piyapan said.

The ECD's action came after Revenue Department officials last Friday petitioned Tourist Police Bureau investigators to act. They sought help in collecting over 20 billion baht from individuals and juristic persons who allegedly evaded taxes.

The petition was acknowledged by Pol Gen Rungroj and acting Tourist Police Bureau deputy chief Surachet Hakphan.

Also Monday, Pol Gen Rungroj said the department filed a complaint with the bureau to take legal action against OA Transport Co and other firms under its umbrella. It accused them of avoiding taxes from 2011 to 2016.

Pol Gen Rungroj said he told his investigators to fast-track the probe so evidence and witnesses could be collected before the case is submitted to prosecutors.

Peeraphat Ingpongpan, of the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo), said the agency will take legal action against the individuals and firms if there are grounds supporting claims they owe more than 10 million baht, attempted to conceal revenues or assets acquired illegally, or breached Section 37 of the Revenue Act.

If there is sufficient evidence their details will be forwarded to a tax scrutiny committee so their assets can be frozen, he said.

Pol Maj Gen Piyapan said several complainants have been questioned by police but no inquiries have yet been made into suspects. Investigators are compiling evidence including documents submitted by the department for examination, he said.

The Revenue Department's latest complaints were made after the Criminal Court late last month acquitted 13 people of charges tied to the zero-dollar tour scams.

The suspects were executives of OA Transport and six companies and shops that fall under its wing. Pol Maj Gen Piyapan said prosecutors still have 30 days to appeal against the ruling.

Several executives of OA Transport accused of supporting the scam were among the defendants.

However, they told the press last week they are also victims of the tour scandal as they had nothing to do with operating it. Police are now waiting to see whether an appeal will be sought. Investigators said they were willing to assist if more evidence was needed, Pol Maj Gen Piyapan said.

According to prosecutors, OA Transport was suspected of being involved because it provided bus services to Chinese tourists who were driven to shops owned by other companies and shops connected with the firm.

Its shops include Royal Gems International Co, which sells jewellery bought from Chanthaburi; Bangkok Handicraft Centre Co, which runs a leather souvenir shop; Royal Thai Herb Co, a distributor of Thai herbal products and other healthcare items; Royal Paradise Co, which runs restaurants; and Bannkhanom Thongthip, which sells traditional Thai desserts and dried fruits.

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