The three men – Somsak Burutchart, Patthaphol Ratbundit and 42-year-old Chinese national Liu Xiaofei – are the executive officers of Romantic Samui Co, based in Koh Samui district, said Pol Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn, deputy commissioner of the Tourist Police Bureau.
He was speaking during a news conference at Bo Phut Police Station on the tourist island, where the trio were caught.
Ten tourist businesses operating on Koh Samui and other areas in Surat Thani on July 23 complained to Col Chalermchai Liangsakun, head of the national peace-keeping team on the island, that a Chinese firm that brought tour groups from China, Romantic Samui Co, had refused to pay bills totalling more than B3mn after using their services.
The firm had made use of services provided locally on Koh Samui and other areas in Surat Thani, such as speedboats, rental vehicles and hotel rooms.
When the Chinese groups arrived at Koh Samui or Surat Thani airport, the firm would send them to local operators who allowed it a credit line. The victims included five speedboat operators.
The Chinese firm would use the services of one speedboat operator until its credit line was exhausted and then switch to another operator. When it was time to pay, the firm refused, they said.
Maj Gen Surachate said these local operators consequently faced cash-flow problems. They finally complained to police.
A Chinese woman, identified as Chanyan Ren, 42, who owned Romantic Samui Co had fled the country, leaving two Thai executives and one Chinese national to run the business. The three men refused to pay the debts.
Maj Gen Surachate said an investigation found that the two Thais were earlier employees of Romantic Samui, with monthly salaries of B10,000 a month.
The tour firm was registered this year with capital of B100mn. Investigators had tracked the money trail and tax payments of the firm.
“Running a business like this (by using Thais as nominees) is rampant in tourist provinces such as Phuket. If we let them operate, safety standards will collapse.
“So, we have to join hands with neighbouring countries to intercept such business operations, which damage to our country. This is the first case that shifts focus from zero-dollar tours to use of Thai nationals as nominees to run a tour business in Thailand,” Maj Gen Surachate said.
Somsak confessed to having known Ms Changyan since 2014. The Chinese woman had appointed them as executives of Romantic Samui Co in February this year and he was paid B30,000 a month plus a promised year-end dividend.
He told police he was not aware that he was being used as a nominee by the Chinese-owned tour firm. He thought he was a mere shareholder who did not need to have investment money.
He could not afford to pay the debts run up by the firm because all revenue had been transferred to the firm’s owner. He told police that he had tried to contact Ms Changyan, but never received a reply.
Bo Phut Police investigators have charged the three suspects with being hired nominees of Romantic Samui Co.
A court arrest warrant had been issued for the runaway Chinese woman, Maj Gen Surachate said.
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