Daruma Sushi owner nabbed at airport

Daruma Sushi owner nabbed at airport

Metha: Decided to return
Metha: Decided to return

Police arrested the owner of the Daruma Sushi restaurant chain at Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday morning for alleged public fraud over the closure of his chain's outlets and the sale of discount vouchers.

Police said Metha Chalingsuk, 39, denied the charges and explained his business had gone bankrupt due to cash flow issues brought on by Covid-19.

Mr Metha was detained after arriving on a flight from Taiwan about 11am and taken to the Consumer Protection Police Division (CPPD). Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej, commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau, was there to question the suspect.

Mr Metha had US$20,186 (710,000 baht) in cash on him when he was arrested.

CPPD commander Pol Maj Gen Anant Nanasombat said Mr Metha was charged with public fraud and a computer crime.

Mr Metha left the country by himself on a flight to Dubai on June 16. The following day all 27 branches of Daruma Sushi closed, citing a need to improve the company's server.

Daruma Sushi had offered e-vouchers for a salmon buffet at a heavily discounted 199 baht, from 499 baht.

Salmon lovers snapped up the offer, with some buying more than 2,000 e-vouchers and reselling them at a profit.

Police believe as many as 10,000 people were drawn into the alleged scam and that the total damage could exceed 100 million baht.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said Mr Metha was the sole authorised director of Daruma Sushi Co which was registered as a restaurant operator on Jan 12, 2016. It had 27 outlets including franchisees in Greater Bangkok.

The company announced on Facebook in January that it was selling 199-baht vouchers for its Japanese buffet, attracting many buyers.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said Mr Metha told police the 199-baht vouchers were a bid to maintain the franchise's cash flow. The company finally went broke and Mr Metha said he faced the pressure of repaying an accumulated debt of more than 100 million baht.

Mr Metha fled to the United States via Dubai on June 16 but the pressure of what occurred followed him and he decided to return to Thailand via Taiwan.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhob said 400 people have filed cases against Mr Metha so far.

A source said Mr Metha's restaurant business was loss-ridden and his default led vendors to cease supplying the chain's restaurants.

The source added the account of Daruma Sushi showed transactions worth about 303.45 million baht.

It sold 174,177 vouchers worth about 27.07 million baht via an app to 33,002 buyers.

The chain's franchisees have also suffered damages put at 17.50 million baht.

Daruma Sushi employed about 400 Thai and migrant workers.

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