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Calls for Interpol to Hunt Down California Wow Boss Eric Levine



Mr. Levine and his girlfriend, Varaluck Vanichkul

Mr. Levine and his girlfriend, Varaluck Vanichkul


PHUKET – Former  fitness club chain CEO Eric Levine from Canada is set to be the target of an international search, with the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) urging police this week to track Levine down, wherever he may be, and to call on Interpol for help.

The club is under investigation amid allegations it cheated customers and shareholders by transferring B1.69 billion out of the country while declaring annual losses.

On Monday Amlo chief Pol Col Seehanant Prayoont said the police Consumer Protection Division should obtain arrest warrants for Levine and others involved.

Amlo has tracked the money, knows where it was sent, and is ready to supply the authorities with all the information at its disposal, Col Seehanat said.

“If arrest warrants are issued and law enforcement agencies are vigilant, I strongly believe that they will be arrested,’’ he said.

In an interview with Bangkok radio station FM 101.5, he proposed that Interpol be asked to help locate Levine as soon as arrest warrants are issued. Levine and others currently face only police summonses for questioning.

Col Seehanat said that, if the case is not pursued, Thailand could be seen as a haven where other people can also set up a business to cheat people and then flee with the money.

He cited the arrest of US citizen Paul David Cardwell in Hua Hin district, Prachuap Khiri Khan, on Saturday as an example that Thai authorities should follow.

The American, a former hospital CEO wanted on multi-million-dollar fraud charges in the United States, was arrested as a result of information sharing between police here and in the US.

Amlo has found that 10 people suspected of colluding with the co-founder of California Wow were not executives of the firm. They were money launderers, Col Seehanant said.

They transferred B1.69 billion over six years, from 2007 to 2012. The last transaction was B3 million, he added.

The company, which was listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) in 2005, has been suspended from trading and is now going through bankruptcy reorganization.

More than 1,000 paid-up club members have been affected by the closures of its main branches at Ratchayothin, Silom, Sukhumvit 23 and Chaeng Wattana.

The company’s financial troubles date back to 2010 when it defaulted on a debt of B58 million owed to TMB Bank. It was also sued in August last year by Bangkok Bank for unpaid debts of B76 million.

California Wow was founded by Levine and Waraluck Vanichkul, Major Cineplex Group Plc was also a large investor in the company but pulled out when it began to sense financial troubles and losses.

Furious customers of the collapsed fitness club petitioned the Department of Special Investigation for an investigation in October last year, accusing the company of fraud. – Phuket News


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