CHIANGRAI TIMES– The Thai authorities Department of Special Investigation (DSI) on Wednesday arrested 22 Chinese and Taiwanese in connection with a call centre scam costing victims in Taiwan and China billions of baht in damages. DSI Director-General Tharit Pengdit said the 22 suspects were arrested this morning at a rented house in Pak Kret district of Nonthaburi province as a result of an extended investigation of the arrest of a Chinese call centre scam gang.
Department of Special Investigation (DSI) deputy chief Yanpol Yangyuen was accompanied by officials from the Bureau of Foreign Affairs and Transnational Crime, the Immigration Bureau, the Central Institute of Forensic Science and CAT Telecom when he announced the arrests at a press briefing on Wednesday.
DSI Deputy Director General General Yannaphon Yangyuen told AFP that according to Taiwanese authorities the gang had scammed more than 10 billion baht (US$325 million) from their victims.
They reportedly worked in shifts and each gang member would get a 7% share of money they duped from the victims.
In a typical phone scam, gang members would pretend to be bank employees or police officers.
They would tell their potential victims they were involved in illegal transactions and that they must follow steps which eventually led to their unwittingly wiring the money to the gang. Police have pressed initial charges against the 22 suspects for breaking immigration law and lacking work permits. The suspects hold tourist visas, said Pol Col Chatchai Iamsaeng, deputy chief of the Immigration Police Bureau. Simon Ho, an official of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Thailand, said many Taiwanese people fall victims to phone scams and lose money worth an equivalent of about 10 billion baht each year.
The gangs are mostly made up of Chinese and Taiwanese teenagers and their bosses are believed to be residing in China or the US, he said.
Mr Ho said punishment for phone scam-related cases in Taiwan is lenient, with a maximum three-year jail term. He said the gangs who dupe Taiwanese people are based in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, while those who fool people in Thailand operate from Taiwan and China.
Earlier, the DSI arrested 15 suspects in the case which took place in the northern province of Chiang Mai since 2007. Mr Doroming, who played a key role in the scam by publicising and convincing the public to join the scheme, escaped arrest until he was recently apprehended in the Andaman coastal province of Krabi.
Since the arrest of the suspects in the rice pyramid scheme fraud, 798 court cases were filed and have been quickly proceeding against those charged. The maximum punishment for the offence is 20 years in jail.- CRT -Anna Wong