Thailand’s Immigration authorities apprehended a prominent member of a Chinese Ponzi scheme network who was wanted in China for cybercrime, fraud, and investment fraud in Bangkok.
The 35-year-old, named only as Mr Zhao, was apprehended after the Chinese embassy in Bangkok collaborated with the Immigration Bureau (IB) to find him.
The suspect conspired with associates to run an investment firm that enticed people to invest in a Ponzi scheme by promising high returns of up to 10%, defrauding victims out of more than US$4.3 billion, said Immigration Bureau commissioner Pol Lt Gen Pakphumpipat Sajjaphan at a press conference yesterday.
Authorities are looking into earlier transactions in order to recover the remaining assets worth roughly US$2.1 billion, he added, adding that the suspect was the network’s claimed mastermind’s right-hand man.
Mr Zhao was apprehended during a search of a condominium on Rama IX Road in Huai Khwang district of Bangkok. Some mobile phones and computers were taken from him. His visa had also been cancelled.
In a separate case, police arrested three Chinese nationals after receiving information from the Chinese embassy in Bangkok.
One was a tax evader named Yan Fang, 35, who allegedly avoided paying US$3.6 million in taxes. She was apprehended at a condo in the Huai Khwang district. Qing Yi, 44, and Yuan, 45, were identified as the other two.
Mr Yi was wanted for attempting to smuggle 15 tons of plastic garbage, while Mr Yuan was wanted for attempting to smuggle 474 tons of plastic garbage into Thailand.
Chinese gangs, also known as triads, have had a historical presence in Thailand, particularly in urban areas with large Chinese populations. It is important to note that not all Chinese individuals or communities in Thailand are involved in criminal activities, and the presence of Chinese gangs does not define the entire Chinese community in the country.
China has experienced several high-profile Ponzi schemes in recent years.
Ezubao was one of the largest Ponzi schemes in China’s history. It operated from 2014 to 2016 and defrauded investors out of an estimated 50 billion yuan ($7.6 billion). Ezubao claimed to be an online peer-to-peer lending platform, promising high returns on investments. However, it was discovered that the company was using new investors’ funds to pay returns to earlier investors. In 2016, the scheme collapsed, leading to the arrest of multiple individuals involved, including the company’s founder.
Shanxinhui was a pyramid scheme that operated from 2016 to 2017. It claimed to be a charitable organization but primarily focused on recruiting new members and collecting membership fees. Participants were promised substantial financial returns by recruiting others into the scheme. Shanxinhui reportedly amassed around 63 billion yuan ($9.6 billion) from millions of participants before it collapsed. The scheme’s founder and several key members were arrested in 2017.
Zhongjin Capital Management was a fraudulent investment company that operated from 2011 to 2012. It attracted investors with promises of high returns and used a multi-level marketing structure to expand its reach. Zhongjin Capital Management defrauded investors out of approximately 16 billion yuan ($2.4 billion). The scheme collapsed in 2012, leading to the arrest and subsequent conviction of the company’s executives.
It’s important to note that these examples represent a fraction of the Ponzi schemes that have occurred in China. Ponzi schemes can be found in various countries around the world, and China’s large population and growing economy make it an attractive target for such fraudulent activities. Authorities in China have been working to crack down on illegal fundraising and fraudulent schemes to protect investors and maintain financial stability.