Thai cops bust $4 million phone scam gang

 With porous borders, cheap living and large communities of expatriates to hide among, Thailand has long been a regional hub for crime gangs.
With porous borders, cheap living and large communities of expatriates to hide among, Thailand has long been a regional hub for crime gangs. PHOTO: EPA

BANGKOK (AFP) - A gang of 44 people from China and Taiwan have been arrested in Thailand for running an elaborate phone scam that conned S$4 million from scores of victims, police said on Monday (July 24).

Raids on houses in the Bangkok capital and the sleazy resort town of Pattaya snared the well-organised gang, whose targets were mainly based in China.

Police seized homemade soundproof booths used to call the victims, who were carefully selected for their vulnerability.

"There were about 120 victims of this fraud, which was worth about 100 million (baht) (S$4 million)," an officer from immigration told AFP, requesting anonymity.

Nineteen of the suspects are from China and 25 from Taiwan.

Posing as police, bank officials or money-laundering inspectors, the suspects spun stories of financial irregularities linked to the victims' bank accounts.

"They told victims their bank accounts had been frozen due to criminal activity such as drug dealing," Immigration Police Chief Natthathorn Prousoontorn told reporters on Sunday.

They then persuaded the victims to transfer money to clear the cooked-up problems, through other "officials" working with the gang.

"Each fraudster played a different role... Some pretended to be bank officials... Some pretended to be police."

The victims lived alone and had no one to consult before falling for the scam, Natthathorn added.

With porus borders, cheap living and large communities of expatriates to hide among, Thailand has long been a regional hub for crime gangs.

Recently, immigration police have arrested hundreds of foreign criminals in a "good guys in, bad guys out" policy, as the kingdom looks to shake out crooks based in the country.