The founder of defunct fitness centre chain California Wow Xperience on Friday filed a defamation lawsuit against the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) and its chief over allegations he had defrauded customers and absconded with their cash.
Eric Levine demanded 100 million baht in the case filed by his lawyers with the Criminal Court against the Amlo and director-general Sihanart Prayoonrat for their remarks, California Wow said in a press release.
The agency froze 88 million baht in assets of the gym chain's bankrupt Thai operation on Jan 19, accusing Mr Levine and all California Wow executives of cheating members and siphoning off huge sums of money from the firm. The move followed the collection of evidence inside and outside Thailand, Pol Col Seenahart said on Jan 19.
"That money, amounting to 99% of the company's overall transactions, was transferred even though it was facing losses," he said. The seized assets were five plots of land in Takua Pa district in Phangnga.
Eric Levine talks to the press on March 16, 2006. The founder and former CEO of California Wow Xperience sued the Anti-Money Laundering Office for defaming him on Friday. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Mr Levine, a former California Wow chief executive and a founder of the California Fitness chain worldwide, said in the statement on Friday that his reputation was damaged by the Amlo move.
The Security Commission of Thailand has looked into the firm's operations and financial records with experts on accounting and police and "they have all publicly stated that there is no evidence of wrongdoing or of any action to substantiate the Anti-Money Laundering Office's allegations." he said.
"Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Jaiyos and Price Waterhouse Coopers have confirmed the accounts and transactions of California Wow Xperience to be correct and without irregularity, and that, far from taking money out of the company, I had injected personal funds to support the operations of the company in its final days," he added.
California Wow operated gyms in Thailand from 2000 to 2013. It used aggressive sales promotions and promised "lifetime" membership to draw customers. However, the club plunged into the red, causing it to close all but one of its branches.
That upset customers, especially those who paid for lifetime memberships.
The fitness chain later went bankrupt and its listing on the Stock Exchange of Thailand was suspended in 2011.