On Wednesday morning, police in Thailand arrested the owner of the Daruma Sushi restaurant chain at Suvarnabhumi airport for alleged public fraud in closing 27 outlets and selling discount vouchers.
According to police, Metha Chalingsuk, 39, denied the charges, explaining that because of Covid-19, his business had gone bankrupt.
Upon arriving from Taiwan, he was detained by the Consumer Protection Police Division (CPPD). As part of the interview process, Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej, the commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau, was present.
Mr. Metha was charged with computer crimes and public fraud, according to CPPD commander Pol Maj Gen Anant Nanasombat.
Metha fled Thailand alone to fly to Dubai on June 16. Several of Daruma Sushi’s branches closed the following day, citing the need to upgrade the company’s servers.
Earlier this month, Daruma Sushi offered e-vouchers for a salmon buffet at a steep discount, from 499 baht to 199 baht. Thousands of e-vouchers were purchased by salmon lovers, who resold them for a profit.
According to police, up to 10,000 people were fooled into falling for the scam, and the total damage could exceed 100 million baht.
In a statement to reporters, the CIB chief said Metha was arrested around 11 am at Suvarnabhumi airport with US$20,186 in cash, on his person.
According to Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop, Mr. Metha is the only authorized director of Daruma Sushi Co, which was registered as a restaurant operator on January 12, 2016. In Greater Bangkok, it had 27 outlets, including franchisees.
Daruma Sushi Went Bankrupt
The company advertised on Facebook that it was selling vouchers for a Japanese buffet for 199 baht.
Mr. Metha denied all charges and said the company was in need of liquidity due to Covid-19 and sold the vouchers to maintain cash flow. He was under intense pressure to repay more than 100 million baht of the accumulated debt of the company before it went bankrupt.
On June 16, he fled to the United States via Dubai. As the pressure increased, he decided to return to Thailand via Taiwan.
A police lieutenant general said police were following money trails in the case, and there were thousands of alleged victims.
Police estimate there was total damage of more than 100 million baht.
Several sources told the Bangkok Post that Mr. Metha’s restaurant business was loss-ridden, and his default resulted in vendors stopping supplying the chain’s outlets.
According to the source, Daruma Sushi’s account showed transactions worth 303.45 million baht. It sold 33,002 vouchers worth about 27.07 million baht via an app. The franchisees of the chain suffered damage of 17.50 million baht.
Approximately 400 Thais and migrants worked at Daruma Sushi.