Three nabbed over call centre racket
Four still on the run, B120m assets seized
Authorities arrested an Indonesian national and two Thais allegedly complicit in a call centre scam network, according to national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda.
One was Tommy Wu, the Indonesian man accused of leading the gang, who was arrested in Bangkok's Ram Intra area over the weekend.
The two Thai suspects -- Jirawat Klombang and Jirapat Kanarujinanon -- were apprehended in Chiang Mai. Another four people allegedly associated with this syndicate are still on the run, Pol Gen Chakthip told a media briefing on Monday.
The three will face charges of conspiring to commit public fraud, Pol Gen Chakthip said, adding that the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) has been called in to try and track the gang's money trail.
More than 100 assets were seized from the gang, including 77 bank accounts with more than 77 million baht.
Other assets seized include six vehicles and real estate believed to be connected with the call centre syndicate. The seized assets were valued at around 120 million baht in total.
"Regarding the seized assets worth, the money will be returned to the victims within two weeks," said Pol Gen Chakthip.
According to the police chief, Mr Wu was found to have persuaded seven or eight Thais to join the call centre scam to impersonate agency officials or open bank accounts.
The group, he said, used the Philippines and other countries in the region as bases for committing the offence.
The scammers phoned victims in Thailand, claiming to be post office staff, officers of the Department of Special Investigation or the Royal Thai Police, according to Pol Gen Chakthip.
Those callers claimed the victims had criminal records and their assets must be seized.
Then, they deceived these victims into wiring money to the gang's bank accounts, he said.
The owners of the accounts are Mr Jirawat and Mr Jirapat, the police chief said. The money was used to buy the virtual currency bitcoin, which was later wired to Mr Wu.
Pol Gen Chakthip appealed to people who opened bank accounts for the gang to stop doing so, as police are stepping up the investigation and will prosecute anyone involved.
He said people who have information about the scam could call 191 or 1599.
He also called on the public not to fall prey to scammers who make phone calls asking people about their personal information, claiming to be police, court officers or officials from other agencies.
He said police have no policy of telephoning members of the public and accusing them of wrongdoing.
So far, authorities have arrested 80 people believed to be linked to call centre scams.
Eighty of them including Mr Wu, Mr Jirawat and Mr Jirapat are among 113 people who were wanted under arrest warrants in connection with several call centre scams.
Pol Gen Chakthip said people who have information about these scams could call 191 or 1599.
Real government agencies do not allow their staff or agents to call members of the public in this manner, so someone who calls claiming to represent them is probably a fraud.