Co-op fraud damages top B212m: cops

Co-op fraud damages top B212m: cops

Two suspects still nowhere to be found

Police are hunting for the manager and chief accountant of a savings cooperative under the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry who both stand accused of stealing cooperative members' savings totalling about 212 million baht.

Pol Col Somyot Udomraksasap, commissioner of Nang Loeng police station, said the pair disappeared after the cooperative accused the two officials of stealing their employer's property and embezzling the savings of cooperative members.

According to an inquiry launched by their coworkers, the two suspects vanished from their office on March 28.

Meanwhile, the victims claim their current savings do not correspond with what should be in their accounts, adding their signatures have been forged on withdrawal requests. Forensic scientists will be brought in to investigate this, likely prompting more charges, the police said.

Pol Col Somyot said the cooperative estimates total losses at 212 million baht. More victims are coming forward to lodge complaints, so the police will set up a panel to collect all the evidence.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Mananya Thaiset said she has ordered the cooperative chief to conclude the embezzlement probe within two days. The ministry will convene a meeting of all its cooperative committees today to discuss legal action against the two people who have absconded, she said.

The case highlights weaknesses in the withdrawal system so all of the committees must address this to clarify the defects, she said.

Wisit Srisuwan, director-general of the Cooperative Promotion Department, said he has instructed officials at regional cooperatives to show their audited reports to check for any suspicious activities.

The debtors and 100 biggest creditors of all the cooperatives will also be probed, he said.

The ministry has asked all of the cooperatives nationwide to arrange online applications so members can easily check their savings.

The embezzlement came to light after the cooperative reviewed its accounts on March 28. A member said he had lost his entire life savings totalling 40 million baht. Others saw losses ranging from 40,000 baht to 10 million baht.

One person who lost 13 million baht said multiple withdrawals were made against his account until only 90,000 baht remained.

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