British among 81 foreigners arrested in Bangkok fraud crackdown

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Police arrested 81 mostly British and Irish foreigners and 19 Thais on Thursday in raids on two "boiler room" stock trading companies in Bangkok. They confiscated assets worth an estimated worth 260 million baht (£4 million), police said.

Officers from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Australian Federal Police joined Thai officers in the bust on the offices of the Brinton Group and Benson Dupont Capital Management in the Thai capital's central business district.

Police Gen. Sant Sarutanond, the deputy Thai national police chief, told a press conference the two companies were suspected of operating unlicensed securities services and may have engaged in fraud against foreign investors.

"Many complaints showed that after the money was transferred to Bangkok accounts, either investors have problems getting their money back or no further contact could be made to the brokers at all," Sant said.

The companies hired more than 70 foreigners to cold­call potential customers, mostly in Australia and New Zealand.

Police said most of those arrested were British and Irish, but also included Americans, Canadians, Australians and citizens of several European countries, who would be charged with working illegally in Thailand. The 19 Thais had not yet been charged.

Under the Thai law, anyone convicted of running an unlicensed securities operation is liable to imprisonment for 2­5 years and a fine of between 200,000 to 500,000 baht (£3,000 and £7,700).

Sant said the raid followed complaints from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission and the New Zealand Securities Commission.

More than 100 investors, mostly Australians, had been solicited by telephone by sales persons to buy shares of bogus US companies based in Bangkok, he said.

Sant said the transfer of a large amount of money by the two companies raised suspicion that they belonged to an international group based outside Thailand and may have been engaged in international money laundering.

The companies raided Thursday also operated under the names Osiris Asia Pacific, Strategic Alliance Corporation, Sigama Capital Management and Dreyfus Capital, he said.

Sant named 21 other such companies based in Bangkok about which he said Thailand's Stock Exchange Commission had received complaints and warned people overseas not to buy shares from them.

Police Lt. Gen. Vasana Puemlarp, secretary general of the anti­money laundering office, declared Thursday's raids a success, and showed that "we are serious and committed to stamp out illegal activities conducted out of Thailand."