Phuket visa overstayers 'pay B100m a month in bribes'

Phuket visa overstayers 'pay B100m a month in bribes'

Police are tracking down 142 foreigners said to be paying up to 100 million baht a month in bribes to local police for overstaying their visas in Phuket.

A deputy police commander and a deputy superintendent in Phuket have been transferred to Surat Thani to pave the way for the investigation, Royal Thai Police spokesman Veerachai Songmetta said on Friday.

Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul ordered the hunt, saying the foreigners had been arrested for overstaying but their cases had not been forwarded to immigration police for expulsion.

He said the 15 Phuket police officers involved in the arrests were already being investigated for not reporting the arrests to immigration police for follow-up.

The 142 foreigners, he added, were not blacklisted but police were checking to see if any of them posed security threats. Police want to know who and where they are and if any have left the country, he said.

Pol Gen Srivara said he had been made aware of complaints earlier that as much as 100 million baht changed hands each month on the tourist island in return for leniency on visa overstaying.

Some local officers had been dismissed in connection with the allegations, he said, adding that he was not aware of similar problems in Chon Buri and Chiang Mai, two other provinces with a lot of foreign tourists.

"I believe that many parties are involved, including the private sector. After the investigation was launched, messages were forwarded through the Line chat application to warn visa-overstaying foreigners to hide as police were about to round them up," Pol Gen Srivara said.

Investigators so far had not found that any police officer had accommodated such foreigners, he said.

Immigration police in Phuket reported that from Tuesday to Thursday they rounded up 95 foreigners staying illegally in the province. They included 62 Indians, 11 Pakistanis and six Egyptians. Seventy had overstayed their visas and the others were illegal immigrants.


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