Thai police bust major online scam syndicate; two Malaysians among nine arrested

BANGKOK (Bernama): Thailand's police cracked down on a scam syndicate and arrested nine suspects including two Malaysians who allegedly lured more than 50 victims into an investment scheme, causing losses of about 800 million baht (RM 105.26 million).

Commander of Economic Crime Suppression Division, Pol. Maj. Gen. Puttidej Bunkrapue said a 42-year-old Malaysian man, believed to be the mastermind of the syndicate, was arrested in Sadao, Songkhla, on March 6.

Another man - a 26-year-old with a criminal record in Malaysia - along with his 30-year-old Thai girlfriend, were arrested in Bangkok the following day.

He said the arrested Malaysian men and the Thai woman were believed to be part of a transnational syndicate operating across Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia.

"The syndicate is estimated to have more than 5 billion baht (RM657.90 million) circulating within its network.

"Initial investigation found the syndicate lured and defrauded more than 50 victims, mostly women. Some of the victims transferred between 10 and 15 million baht at a time.

"A Thai elderly woman suffered the highest loss, at 50 million baht (RM6.58 million),” he told Bernama.

Puttidej added the two Malaysians are facing charges that include fraud, computer crimes, and technology crimes, which could result in prison sentences of up to five years.

Additionally, they may face charges of transnational organised crime, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison, he said.

Investigation revealed the syndicate's reach across multiple countries in South-East Asia including Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia, as well as Hong Kong.

The 42-year-old Malaysian man, believed to be the mastermind of the syndicate, frequently travelled between Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia. Additionally, investigators found IP addresses and financial transactions linked to the syndicate in Hong Kong.

Puttidej said police seized 84 bank accounts containing more than 20 million baht in total as well as 20 crypto accounts.

"Police also seized 33 computers, 65 mobile phones, and a collection of luxury goods, including cars, branded bags, and watches,” he said.

He added that the court issued arrest warrants for more than 50 suspects including eight Malaysians and one Indonesian allegedly involved in the syndicate.

"We are seeking cooperation from Malaysian police to hunt down more suspects,” Puttidej said.

The victims were lured to invest in a fake application called "Nichare". The app promised easy profits and allowed initial withdrawals to build trust.

However, when victims attempted to withdraw larger amounts later, they were met with roadblocks. The scammers then pressured them to pay additional fees, including guarantee fees and taxes, supposedly to unlock their original investments.

This predatory tactic ultimately led many victims to file complaints. - Bernama

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