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Five Frenchmen are in police custody while another suspect is at large, wanted for ATM skimming fraud in Phuket amounting to losses “in the millions”, police said.
The men, who have denied all allegations, were paraded to the media this morning (February 3)at a press conference at Phuket Provincial Police Station, headed by Phuket Provincial Police Commander, Maj Gen Pachara Boonyasit.
The suspects – identified as Kevin Tahiango Theodore Okito 29, the alleged leader of the group, Mel Duval Poaty, 29, Accel Jonathan Poaty Pambou, 26, Samir Maruof 29 and Jessy Bianvenu Vincence, 33 – were presented to the press along with seized evidence, including 15 fake electronic cards, a notebook computer, flash drive and five passports.
Two of the men were arrested at a Fresh Mart store in Kamala, while the other three were nabbed at a rented home in Chalong on February 28, police said.
Police said the men were believed to be part of an international skimming gang.
Their arrest came after Phuket police Superintentent Lt Col Prawi Angchuwn received information from the money laundering crime and security department of Siam Commercial Bank that on February 22, a group of dark skinned men used skimming cards on multiple occasions to withdrawal cash from one of their ATMs in front of the Fresh Mart convenience store in Kamala and other locations in Chalong.
Police said that the gang divided themselves into two groups to commit the crimes – one group was based at the rented house on Soi Prattana in Chalong and the other at the rented house on Soi Huakwan in Kamala.
According to police, at 1am on Feb 28, Kevin and Mel left the house in Kamala and came to the Fresh Mart.
Kevin took an undisclosed amount of cash out of the machine while Mel was one the lookout for his partner, police said.
When police approached them, both men attempted to flee into a nearby soi but police were able to apprehend them, with skimmer cards on their possession.
Police later raided the house in Chalong and arrested the other three suspects, Jonathan,Samir and Jessy, while a fourth man managed to flee the scene.
Police seized the rest of the evidence, and said they have notified immigration police to be on the lookout for the other man at large and arrest him upon positive identification.
Police clarified that they had photographic evidence of the sixth suspect, but could not obtain a name from any of the other suspects.