DSI takes over B400m 'Mae Manee' ponzi investigation

DSI takes over B400m 'Mae Manee' ponzi investigation

A victim of the Mae Manee pyramid scheme cries while walking to reporters at the Department of Special Investigation on Monday. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)
A victim of the Mae Manee pyramid scheme cries while walking to reporters at the Department of Special Investigation on Monday. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin has instructed the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to take over a case in which at least 2,000 victims were allegedly cheated out of more than 430 million baht.

The so-called ''Mae Manee pyramid scheme" was allegedly run by a couple who offered returns of up to 93% a month.

The Criminal Court on Tuesday approved warrants for the arrest of Wantanee Tippaveth, aka Mae Mane 28, and her 20-year-old boyfriend Methee Chinnapha. They face charges of public fraud, public fraud-related borrowing and inputting false information into a computer system.

Mr Somsak said the DSI on Tuesday began allowing victims to file complaints via QR code, with about 1,600 complaints filed on that day alone.

On Monday, some 200 victims lodged complaints in person with the DSI's bureau of  financial business  crime.

This brings the number of complaints being handled by the DSI to 1,800, with 432 million baht lost to the scheme, Mr Somsak said. 

Also on Monday, another 200 victims filed complaints with police, alleging they were defrauded out of about 100 million baht, he said.

To qualify as a DSI special case an offence must involve at least 300 victims with more than 100 million baht lost, and the Mae Mani pyramid scheme meets the criteria, Mr Somsak said.

He has told the DSI to make sure its special case screening committee takes up the case quickly.

It involves a very large amount of lost money and any delay would allow the suspects to hide their assets, Mr Somsak said.

When the DSI officially accepts the case, it will ask the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) to freeze the suspects' assets, he said.

Addressing calls for remedial measures to compensate pyramid scheme victims, Mr Somsak said no laws or funds have been established yet to help them.

On Monday Piyasiri Watanawarangkun, DSI director for financial business crime, said pyramid scheme scammers commonly lured victims by promising around 15% in monthly returns. He was shocked to learn the Mae Mani scheme offered returns as high as 93%.

Victims invested various amounts, but all said the scheme began in March. Members were initially happy, with high the returns - and then payments stopped this month.

The DSI learned that Ms Wantanee was a native of Udon Thani province and had earlier sold dolls online. She promoted her scheme via her social media accounts. 

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