Police chief reveals massive fraud on We Travel Together scheme centred on a Chaiyaphum resort
Police hold a press conference at the Royal Thai Police Headquarters in Bangkok where a top Crime Suppression Division officer revealed over ฿120 million in fraudulent claims in Chaiyaphum and Phuket. Hundreds of suspects are reported to be linked to the orchestrated fraud schemes in both provinces.
A 10 room resort in Chaiyaphum province claimed ฿87 million from the government in a short period at the end of last year with no less than 92,028 room reservations or up to 300 times the facility’s maximum capacity. A separate fraud involving alleged shopping by the fictitious visitors netted local shops a further ฿14 million. Police, on Wednesday, announced 41 arrest warrants for those involved of which 36 have already been taken into custody.
In Bangkok, on Wednesday, the National Police Commissioner Suwat Jangyodsuk, called a special press conference at the Royal Thai Police Headquarters to give details of a police investigation into two frauds perpetrated on the We Travel Together scheme by hotel operators in Chaiyaphum and Phuket which saw nearly ฿123 million swindled from government coffers in what were orchestrated embezzlement schemes perpetrated by large networks of people.
A first-hand account of the investigation was given to reporters by the Deputy Chief of the Crime Suppression Division, Police Colonel Anek Taosupap.
Large numbers of statistically impossible bookings
He said that authorities had become aware of two hotels, one in each province, which were associated with large numbers of statistically impossible arrays of transactions linked with the government subsidy scheme which generously offered co-payments to Thai holidaymakers so they could travel throughout the kingdom in a desperate effort, last year, to boost domestic tourism activity.
The most serious case was found in Chaiyaphum province, located in lower Northeastern Thailand, where over ฿100 million was embezzled through a fraud centred on the Natchaya Resort which only had 10 rooms for hire.
9,263 people checked into the remote and spartan Natchaya Resort driving no less than 92,028 reservations costing over ฿87 million
However, this did not stop it claiming ฿87 million for no less than 9,263 people who made a staggering 92,028 room reservations at the little known venue in a limited period of time.
All the funds were claimed through submissions to the We Travel Together scheme, the National Police Commissioner confirmed.
The police officers pointed out that this involved room reservations at a rate of 1,000 to 3,000 bookings per day or up to 300 times the resort’s maximum capacity everyday.
Bogus tourists who did a lot of expensive shopping
In addition, the police were able to link the bogus tourists to spending activity at 22 local shops near the resort where a massive ฿14 million was spent by the alleged holidaymakers who paid room rates ranging from ฿800 to ฿1,000 per night, well in excess of market rates given the current Covid-19 environment and the standard of accommodation at the resort.
At the press conference, Police Colonel Anek Taosupap identified falsified sales receipts, a pattern of high spending at the retail outlets and bank accounts set up by intermediaries as part of the fraud.
36 of those sought under warrants arrested by police
In raids this week, police arrested 36 people listed on 41 court arrest warrants issued by the Criminal Court as part of the investigation. The warrants were sought for the hotel owner, 14 bank account holders and 22 shop owners linked with the Natchaya Resort scam.
Police Colonel Anek then gave details of another fraud in Phuket where it is believed that nearly ฿22 million was embezzled between a hotel and two retail outlets.
Phuket scheme involved over 800 people and netted nearly ฿22 million for a hotel and shop owners
Police believe that up to 800 people took part in the fraud scheme in the province which centred on the Thara Pathong Beach Resort & Spa Hotel.
Three of the owners of the hotel have been arrested and it is estimated that ฿18 million in fraudulent bookings were processed by up to four accomplices who have also been detained by police.
Two people who owned shops were also collared as well as 5 bank account intermediaries who facilitated the scheme.
The shops are reported to have made false claims and obtained funds to the value of ฿3.9 million.