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A combined force of over 100 government authorities yesterday swooped on a Chinese nominee business establishment with a large network covering almost all business related to tourism, transport, hotel, spa, restaurant in Phuket after investigation indicating it might be involved in money laundering and tax evasion.
Over 100 tour buses, speedboats belonging to the company and its dozens of affiliates were impounded for checks.
But authorities assured that the impounding of these buses and boats would not affect tourists already booked tour packages via its affiliates as they could still hire buses from other operators to provide services to the tourists.
The swoops at three locations in Phuket were conducted by local police, tourist police, soldiers, naval officers, and anti-money-laundering officials.
A total of 29 boats and 53 buses belonging to companies operating under the Tranlee Travel Co Ltd’s network of businesses in raids at Rassada and Koh Siray, on the east side of Phuket town, were seized.
The first target swooped in by authorities was at the Insee Marine Co Ltd’s private company pier located near the bridge joining Koh Siray to the mainland. At here 29 tour speedboats anchored at the pier were seized.
The second target was at the offices of T.L. Better Way Co Ltd at Koh Sirey, which provided bus services for tourists, 53 buses were seized.
The third target group was at Racha Spa Co Ltd at Phuket Villa 5 where authorities seized all documents, including registration licenses and accounting records.
The raids followed Royal Thai Police deputy commissioner Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul announced that five affiliates operating under Tranlee Travel Co Ltd were ordered closed after Trailer headoffice was shut down after police said last month.
According to Pol Gen Srivara, Tranlee chief executive Kritchakorn Rungmongkolnam, or Mr Isam Saingsee turned himself in yesterday after officials had a warrant out for him and raided his company.
But he said his partner, Weerachai Kampaipraphankul, wanted by police on many charges is still at large.
However police believed he is still hiding somewhere in the Kingdom.
In the June 16 raid, Phuket deputy police chief Pol Col Saman Chainarong said that “Kritchakorn” (Isam Saingsee) and “Weerachai” were foreigners who had both illegitimately obtained Thai national identification cards in Northern Thailand.
The warrants issued for both men accuse them of staying in Thailand illegally, possession and use of fake identification and using fake identification documents to register tourism businesses.
Pol Gen Sriava said that six companies operating in the Tranlee network – including Tranlee Travel Co Ltd – had been shut down, but declined to name them specifically.
But he listed 17 companies that form Tranlee’s network as Tranlee Travel, Yang Guang Co Ltd, Manta Marine, Phuket Ping Friend, Meili Co Ltd, Blue Haven Diving Centre, Kenya and Fae International, Thailee Import, T.L Better Way, Insee Marine, Blue Wave Resort, Bluebay Resort, Natural Bay Resort, Venice Sea View, Racha Spa, Sabunnga Spa, and Zean Shabu Shabu.
He said Tranlee’s network includes tour companies, accommodation businesses, tour guides, restaurants, shops and spas.
He said although these companies were registered, but did not declare actual income to the Revenue Department.
Pol Gen Sriava said he has ordered officials to strictly enforce the law and anyone found in connection to this case, no matter they be former politician or an influential person, they would be investigated and punished accordingly by laws.
So far officials had seized assets including 117 vehicles, 35 boats and three plots of lands, amounting to almost a billion baht, he indicated.
He cited examples of law violation by one of its company saying officials have found 21 illegal tour guides, four boats fitted with a radio communication system without a permit, two buses fitted with the incorrect engines and drivers dressed inappropriately for conducting tours.
Authorities would also follow its money trail.
The Anti Money Laundering Office (Amlo) is investigating to find out where the money went and how can it was sent out of the country, he said.
He also warned Thai nationals who acted as nominee shareholders saying they could face charges reasoning that Phuket is a key target area prone for illegal nominee operation.