Sushi chain scam likely duped 10,000 people, say police

Sushi chain scam likely duped 10,000 people, say police

People arrive at the Central Investigation Bureau, Bangkok, to lodge fraud complaints against a popular Japanese buffet restaurant chain on Monday. (Photo Varuth Hirunyatheb)
People arrive at the Central Investigation Bureau, Bangkok, to lodge fraud complaints against a popular Japanese buffet restaurant chain on Monday. (Photo Varuth Hirunyatheb)

About 10,000 people had likely been duped by the Daruma Sushi scam, with damages estimated to exceed 100 million baht, according to the Central Investigative Bureau (CIB).

Cases in connection with the scam are being compiled, and complaints against the Japanese buffect restaurant chain have been filed with different agencies, Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej, CIB commissioner, said on Tuesday.

Once the cases are forwarded to the Consumer Protection Police Division (CPPD), it will seek an arrest warrant for Metha Chalingsuk, the restaurant chain's franchiser who reportedly fled the country on June 16, said Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop.

He said the suspect travelled alone and was believed to be heading for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, but it remained unclear if he had fled to another destination.

“It’s believed [Mr Metha] had set out to deceive people from the beginning,” said the CIB chief. “Although police have managed to confiscate tens of thousands of baht from the business, the actual damages [from the scam] could be over 100 million baht.”

The suspect could face fraud charges, while investigators were trying to find out where all the money had ended up.

In the event it was siphoned off to various bank accounts, the suspect may also be charged with money laundering, Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said.

So far, only one account was known to have been used to receive the franchisees’ money as well as those who purchased vouchers for the buffet supposedly discounted from 499 to 199 baht in bulk purchases, he said.

The Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB) is working with the police and the Department of Special Investigation to reach out to possible victims, said Prime Minister’s Office Minister Anucha Nakasai, who supervises the OCPB.

Courts of Justice spokesman Sorawit Limparangsri recommended that victims lodge a civil suit against the owner of Daruma Sushi and demand compensation while police continued investigating the criminal cases.

Civil suits can be filed online, as can class-action lawsuits, he said.

Daruma Sushi employed about 400 Thai nationals and migrant workers, who will need help pursuing compensation for losing their jobs, said Kanjana Poolkaew, deputy director-general of the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare.



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