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Thailand to send team to probe Penang-based company accused of being a crime syndicate

BANGKOK: A team of Thai offi­cers will travel to Malaysia soon to investigate a Penang-based company which has been accused of being a “transnational crime syndicate” in the kingdom.

It is learnt that the green light to send the investigators was reached during a recent meeting between the two countries on anti-narcotics law enforcement cooperation in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

The Thai officers will also follow up on new leads allegedly linking the diversified Malaysian company with transnational drug trade.

“They will seek more information about the company and gather evidence,” a high-ranking source in the Thai investigation team said.

He said the trip to Malaysia has been tentatively scheduled for the end of the month.

“We want to know whether the company’s operations in Thailand and Malaysia are connected,” said the source.

Thailand has set up a powerful multi-agency team comprising offi­cers from the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), Narcotics Suppression Bureau, Department of Special Investigation, Anti-Money Laundering Office and Department of Business Development to probe the company.

The country’s central bank, Bank of Thailand, is also assisting in the investigation.

Since establishing its foothold in Thailand several years ago, the company has been aggressively expanding its business operations spanning several sectors – property, entertainment, theme park and restaurant – especially in Danok and Hatyai.

Malaysia has also set up a multi-agency task force spearheaded by the Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry to investigate the company.

Malaysian authorities raided se­veral of the company’s premises recently and frozen several bank accounts amounting to RM177mil.

Another high-ranking source in the Thai narcotics enforcement agency disclosed that it suspected a link between the company and the drug trade during an investigation into the seizure of 282kg of the synthetic drug “Ice” in March last year.

The seizure saw two Malaysian drug couriers arrested at the Sadao immigration checkpoint.

“We found records of financial transactions that led us to believe there is a link between the seized drugs and the company,” the source said.

In April this year, investigators raided various subsidiaries belonging to the Malaysian company in Hatyai and Sadao.

The source said they sent in re­­quests to question the founder of the Malaysian company over 14 million baht (RM1.75mil) seized from one of its subsidiaries by the ONCB.

“Despite the request, he did not show up and only sent his legal representative and asked for the return of the money, but the head of ONCB re­fused to relent until the founder can present himself and explain the money trail,” he said. — Bernama