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Two Senior Immigration Officials “Transferred to Inactive Posts” after Visa Scam

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BANGKOK – Two senior immigration officials were transferred to inactive posts Thursday while undergoing a probe into their alleged involvement with a gang of visa-renewal brokers that has been the subject of a recent crackdown.

Pol Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn, the newly appointed Immigration Bureau (IB) commissioner, signed an order to transfer the officials to the bureau’s operation center and ordered an investigation into their alleged links with the gang, a source said.

The transferred officials are Pol Col Kantawat Phongsathabodi, chief of Sub-Division 2 of Immigration Division 1, and Pol Capt Mananya Ketkaeo, a deputy inspector with the sub-division, the source said.

Pol Maj Gen Surachate previously received a report about the officials’ alleged connection with a suspect wanted by police for assisting a number of foreigners to obtain their visas to continue staying in Thailand using falsified documents, said the source.

According to the Bangkok Post, Yuphin Chantakhat, the 55-year-old suspect, was wanted in an arrest warrant dated Oct 1. She was detained previously for allegedly brokering visa renewals for people from various countries including India, Pakistan and Nigeria. Her arrest was announced Thursday morning.

Pol Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn, the newly appointed Immigration Bureau (IB) commissioner, signed an order to transfer the officials.

The suspect was found to have earlier prepared falsified documents for two Nigerian nationals to support their requests for visa renewals. One was submitted with immigration authorities at the Government Complex on Chaeng Watthana Road; the other with immigration officials in Ayutthaya.

Prior to the arrest of the visa broker, police detected irregularities with documents submitted to support visa renewal applications and began tracing the culprit, said Pol Maj Gen Surachate.

Each application requires proof of financial security, so the applicant’s bank account must have a minimum of 400,000 baht.

But in this case the money was only deposited on the morning the application was submitted, he said, adding it was withdrawn the same day.

This suggests state officials may have been complicit as the move was so easy to detect and so clearly should have set alarm bells ringing, he added.

The bureau also announced the arrests of 59 suspects in illegal entry cases, including two Thais and one Bangladeshi national, Pol Maj Gen Surachate said.