CHIANG RAI – Police in Chiang Rai have arrested Ms.Nattha-an Chaiyanant, 39, wanted for allegedly swindling at least 10 million baht from holidaymakers who bought tour packages online to South Korea and Japan.
Ms. Nattha-an Chaiyanant, who was facing eight arrest warrants arising from 20 criminal complaints, has been charged with public fraud and operating a tour business without permission.
Pol Col Atchayon Kraithong, deputy chief of the Tourist Police Division, said the arrest followed complaints by Thai holiday seekers who said they had been duped into buying tour packages to foreign countries at prices cheaper than those quoted by other firms.
After they paid the money, they found their bookings could not be fulfilled and the tour operator vanished. Losses from the scam were estimated at 10 million baht.
Police began investigating and found that Ms Nattha-an and Anchalee Intharak had jointly opened two companies, All That Thai Travel Co and At Travel Groups Co, to sell tour packages online to countries including South Korea, Japan and Myanmar, said Pol Col Atchayon. The attractive prices drew many Thai customers.
After receiving money transfers from customers, the tour firms were unable to arrange the trips but refused to return the money.
Police said that Ms Nattha-an confessed to the fraud charges. She told them she had worked for a registered tour firm for two years before deciding to set up her own business in Bung Kum district of Bangkok last year. However, her firm operated without a license.
Rawiwan Por-iem, 64, a retired civil servant, said her husband had asked her and some friends to visit South Korea together. Their group, comprising 50 people, bought tour packages online from the website of Ms Nattha-anâ€™s company as the website looked reliable.
Ms Nattha-an and her South Korean husband visited Mrs Rawiwan’s house to provide more details about the tour packages, and also offered more discounts, free travel bags and free guide services. Mrs Rawiwan said she then transferred 500,000 baht in cash on behalf of the group to the womanâ€™s account. But when the journey date drew near, the tour operator could not be contacted.
Pol Col Suriya Nakkaew, chief of the Khok Khram police station, said the suspect had agreed to pay for the damages caused to all theÂ victims. Her lawyer was present during a media briefing.
Police are now asking other victims to come forward to give evidence. Ms Nattha-an is being held in police custody pending further legal action.