Phuket police find bogus firms processing visa applications

Phuket police find bogus firms processing visa applications

Police are questioning people at a raided location in Phuket on Wednesday. (Photo supplied)
Police are questioning people at a raided location in Phuket on Wednesday. (Photo supplied)

PHUKET: Police raided eight locations in this southern island province on Wednesday and Thursday, suspecting a Russian of money laundering and some Thais of setting up bogus firms to facilitate foreigners' visa and work permit applications.

Pol Maj Gen Montree Theskhan, commander of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), said these raids were launched in response to officials' discovery of suspicious financial transactions involving a Russian man.

Before this discovery, a scammer posing as a provincial electricity official lured a victim into installing an application software that transferred 500,000 baht from the victim's bank account to the Russian's account. The cash was then withdrawn from the Phuket-registered account.

The suspect also received cryptocurrencies from non-custodial wallets, said the CSD commander. After the cryptocurrencies were sold, the proceeds were transferred to his bank accounts in Thailand, and the cash was immediately withdrawn.

Detectives found that the Russian also withdrew a total of 186 million baht from three bank accounts at various banks and automatic teller machines (ATMs) between July 7 and Nov 19 last year. The amount of money withdrawn was suspiciously high, and the transactions could be indicative of money laundering, Pol Maj Gen Montree said. 

The Russian man had previously presented a document identifying him as an employee of a Phuket-based company.

Pol Col Phatrawut Onchuai, chief of the Crime Suppression Sub-division 5, said the company was not operational and appeared to have been established to produce counterfeit documents supporting foreigners' work permit and visa applications.

The company had two Thai women and a Russian woman as directors and shareholders. The women also served as shareholders and directors for 37 other companies. 

Investigators suspected them of supporting criminal activities by foreigners, prompting the raids on the eight locations associated with the suspected companies, Pol Col Phatrawut said.

During the raids, the officers found mostly empty rooms. The two Thai women also confessed to setting up bogus companies to assist foreign visa and work permit applicants. They were also involved in processing such applications, Pol Col Phatrawut said.

Police also found stamps for more than 50 companies during the operation.

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