Owner of Japanese sushi chain flees fraud claims

Owner of Japanese sushi chain flees fraud claims

A woman shows an app on her phone to buy discount e-coupons at Daruma Sushi, a popular Japanese sushi chain. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
A woman shows an app on her phone to buy discount e-coupons at Daruma Sushi, a popular Japanese sushi chain. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

More than 500 people have lodged fraud complaints with police and the consumer protection body, against the company operating Daruma Sushi, a popular Japanese buffet restaurant chain.

A check with the Immigration Bureau has shown the owner of the Japanese buffet chain has already fled the country, said Pol Col Prateep Charoengulpa, secretary-general of the Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB).

Among those lodging fraud complaints against the sushi buffet chain with the OCPB were consumers, franchisees, suppliers, and brokers selling extremely cheap e-vouchers for the sushi buffet, Pol Col Prateep said.

"Offering a sales promotion with a discount from 499 baht to 199 baht to boost sales of the e-voucher which is normally sold five to ten per order is highly suspicious from the beginning. It looks like a scam from the start," he said.

The use of e-vouchers instead of paper ones could also be aimed at making it easier to destroy evidence of fraud that may later be used against the suspect, he said.

At this point a summons has been issued for the owner of Daruma Sushi to report to the authorities, Pol Col Prateep said.

According to the Department of Business Development's database of registered companies, Daruma Sushi Co was registered on Jan 12, 2016, with registered capital of 5 million baht.

Metha Chalingsuk is named as the director of the company which began to break even one year after its establishment. Daruma Sushi which has been highly popular, particularly for its cheap salmon sashimi, currently has 27 branches.

A Daruma Sushi franchisee who asked not to be named said she was a regular customer of the sushi buffet restaurant before she decided to invest in a Daruma Sushi franchise that opened in the Sai Mai district of Bangkok.

She was speaking after lodging a complaint with Consumer Protection Police Division against Daruma Sushi Co yesterday along with another franchisee. She said the company had assured her that all she needed to do was pay the franchise fee and wait to receive her share of profits from the restaurant which were promised to be paid monthly.

Upon agreeing to invest 2 million baht in the investment programme, she was required to transfer all daily income from the branch restaurant to the franchiser before the promised 10% of monthly profits would be transferred back to her, she said.

Although the branch restaurant didn't make any profits she received about 100,000 baht per month from the franchiser in the first two months, she said.

Last month the franchise owner announced in a LINE chat group of his franchisees that he had a problem finding supplies of salmon and afterwards lost contact with everyone in the group, she said.

Another franchisee identified only as Thidarat said she fears she lost 2.5 million baht to the investment scam. All she has now is an empty promise to establish a new branch which was meant to open last Saturday.

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