9,000 people face tourism subsidy fraud charges

9,000 people face tourism subsidy fraud charges

National police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, centre, chairs a press conference on action against the embezzlement of the We Travel Together subsidy scheme, at the Royal Thai Police Office in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo: Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
National police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, centre, chairs a press conference on action against the embezzlement of the We Travel Together subsidy scheme, at the Royal Thai Police Office in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo: Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

Police will prosecute about 9,000 people who allegedly conspired with hoteliers and shop owners to defraud the We Travel Together stimulus scheme, the national police chief said on Wednesday.

Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, commissioner of the Royal Thai Police Office, held a press conference after Crime Suppression Division (CSD) police raided two hotels and numerous shops in Chaiyaphum and Phuket provinces on Wednesday morning in a move against widespread embezzlement of government funds through abuse of the We Travel Together scheme.

In Chaiyaphum police obtained warrants for the arrest of 41 people, and detained 36 of them in the raid. Fourteen others were arrested in Phuket for similar offences including bogus check-ins, falsified shopping receipts, inflated room rates and unusually high spending at shops.

CSD deputy commander Pol Col Anek Taosupap said the raid in Chaiyaphum focused on Natchaya Resort. The 41 suspects included the hotel owner, 22 shop owners, 14 people who controlled beneficiaries' accounts, three who opened bank accounts to receive embezzled money and one who recorded room reservations. The suspects were in Chaiyaphum, Loei, Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, Phetchabun and Si Sa Ket provinces.

The hotel had only 10 rooms but since last July, it claimed 9,263 people had checked in for a total of 92,028 room reservations. That amounted to fake reservations for 1,000-3,000 rooms per day, Pol Col Anek said.

The hotel room reservations were accompanied by subsidy claims for unusually high spending at local shops involved in the conspiracy, he said.

Losses linked to Natchaya Resort were estimated at 14 million baht, with a further 87 million baht embezzled by 101 shops. The ringleaders paid 400-1,000 baht to each of the people who gave their identification information and personal data to facilitate the fraud, Pol Col Anek said.

In Phuket, police raided Thara Pathong Beach Resort & Spa Hotel and arrested three hotel owners, two shop owners, five people who controlled beneficiaries' accounts and four people who recorded room reservations. About 800 people were involved with the embezzlement in the province, Col Anek said.

Police estimated losses at the hotel to be 18 million baht and at the two shops to be 3.9 million baht, he said.

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