PHUKET – Officials at the Tourism and Sports Ministry have asked the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to investigate jewellery shops selling fake products to tourists in Phuket.
The ministry’s permanent secretary, Suwat Sidthilaw, said this type of crime has been prevalent in Phuket for a long time.
The ministry had earlier warned shops of the need to operate legally, pointing out that these businesses each year generate large amounts of revenue in the province.
He said cheating tourists caused damage to the overall tourism industry, because the victims would talk to other people who might be thinking of coming to Thailand, and they might decide to go elsewhere instead.
Mr Suwat said about 30 foreigners had recently complained about gem rip-offs in Thailand. The most recent was a visitor from Poland who bought fake jewellery from a shop in Bangkok.
Mr Suwat said the fake gems scam involved several groups of people, including tuk tuk drivers who take tourists to the shops.
The ministry believed it was necessary to take tough measures against these criminals to deal with the problem, and so had decided to seek assistance from the DSI.
He advised tourists to check for the elephant logo, which is the symbol of the Tourism and Sports Ministry and the Jewel Fest Club and used to show that their members are legitimate jewellery shops.
DSI director-general Tarit Pengdith said gems fraud was associated with money laundering, so the DSI could take strict legal action against those shops.
The department would try to find the real owners of the crooked shops, which usually use nominees such as employees, claiming they are the ones who founded the company.
He said the DSI has its eye on at least 20 shops, particularly vendors in Greater Bangkok and tourist destinations such as Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Samui.