CHIANGRAI TIMES – The Queensland Police are investigating allegations that Brisbane anti-trafficking charity The Grey Man may have used false advertising to solicit funds late last year.
The organization has denied any wrongdoing.
But Thai authorities have called into question the legitimacy of photographs used by The Grey Man as part of a digital fund-raising drive.
The children featured in the photographs were from a hill tribe in the Chiang Rai province of northern Thailand.
They were said to be among the 13 boys and eight girls, aged between 12 and 16, rescued in October, saving them from the fate of being sold into sexual slavery.
Their rescuers were Grey Man volunteers, including a former British Special Forces soldier, an Australian ex-police officer and an Australian bodyguard.
Australian press reported widely on details of the rescue, provided by the charity’s founder John Curtis, and the images were directly featured with requests for donations on The Grey Man website and Facebook page.
But reports filed by the Royal Thai Police and Trafcord, a Thai non-government anti-trafficking organization, challenged Mr Curtis’s claims and prompted an inquiry by Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation. The allegation is that the children may not have been at risk of becoming sex slaves.
An Australian Federal Police spokeswoman confirmed a formal request for a parallel investigation into whether The Grey Man had solicited funds using fake advertising had been submitted by the Thai authorities.
A Queensland Police spokesman told brisbanetimes.com.au the matter had been referred to them.
“However it is currently being reviewed as to whether or not there have been any offences committed,” he said.
Mr Curtis said the charity welcomed an Australian investigation.
Following reports of the Thai inquiry and potential local follow-up, Mr Curtis said the organization’s treasurer and secretary had written letters to the AFP asking the matter be resolved.
He was unaware of QPS involvement.
“But I say to them please investigate us as soon as possible,” Mr Curtis said.
“We have all the evidence needed to show we’ve done nothing wrong.”
Trafcord director Ben Svasti Thomson said it was in the interests of the Thai and Australian communities to resolve the matter as soon as possible.
Mr Thomson said the conflicting accounts had caused an uneasy situation.
“The Australian public who generously donated funds deserves to know what was going on,” he said.
“A claim of a … crime has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, and in Thailand, we have not found any conclusive evidence to support the report a rescue of that scale was made.”
The matter is ongoing. –Katherine Feeney