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The owner of a Phuket tour company has filed an embezzlement report with local police after a freelance sales representative acting on behalf of the company allegedly diverted more than B1 million in tour fees into his own pocket.
Thirty Thai tourists had complained to Diamond Tours and to the Tourist Assistance Centre at Phuket International Airport after they arrived in Phuket to find that tours they had booked and paid for apparently did not exist.
Arinrada Sirirak, the owner of Diamond Tours, in turn complained to the Director of the Phuket Tourism and Sports Office (TSO), Santi Pawai, on Wednesday (March 25).
Ms Arinrada told The Phuket News that she had hired the freelancer to sell tours to islands such as Tachai and Phi Phi on behalf of the Diamond Tours, receiving commission on any sales he made.
When the freelancer first started selling the tours he did so in line with their agreement. However, after some time Ms Arinrada discovered that the freelancer had been soliciting customers through Facebook. Payments would come in by bank transfers into his own account.
Customers would be told they would be picked up from Phuket International Airport but when they arrived, this did not happen.
They tried to contact the freelancer directly but to no avail.
Ms Arinrada said that the freelancer also ran a different scam, using fake vouchers in the name of Diamond Tour. He would sell tours to tourists, then pay part of the money received to a variety of operators – boat owners, guides and so on – and keep a profit for himself.
He told customers not to contact Diamond direct, as he had organised a “special price” for them.
After a while, one tour company contacted Diamond to say that the freelancer had not paid them. It was at that time that Diamond realised they were being ripped off.
By that time, Ms Arinrada said, she figured that the freelancer had pocketed at least B1 million of money that should have come to Diamond.
Ms Arinrada said that the freelancer had admitted to cheating her but could not confirm exactly how much because he had also been “dealing” with other tour companies.
Ms Arinrada told The Phuket News that what the freelancer had done had nothing to do with Diamond Tours, which was blameless.
However, the company will help those customers cheated by the freelancer by offering them free transfers and also tours at contract rate if they re-book the trips directly with Diamond Tours.
Some customers have been willing to accept the offer, she said, but others have rejected it. Those people, she said, will have to wait until the completion of court action before they can expect refunds.
The police have issued a summons for the freelancer and are currently waiting for him to visit them.