The huge seizure of assets came in conjunction with investigations also conducted by the Anti Money Laundering Office (AMLO), police, the military and Revenue Department officers, Gen Rungroj said.
The announcment was made at the Royal Gems Pavilion Phuket, located beside the Heroines Monument in the heart of Phuket, after the contingent of top-flight officers had flown to Phuket expressly to make the announcement.
Although Gen Rungroj announced that that assets were seized from 61-year-old OA Transport CEO Thongchai Rojruangrungsri, it was not made clear which assets were held in his name alone or held as assets by the companies he headed.
“Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered the relevant agencies to prosecute the group of companies and shops for tax avoidance,” Gen Rungroj said.
The total value of the assets seized amounted B 4.6bn, he said.
Among the assets seized were 129 properties, including land and buildings in Bangkok and other provinces, and luxury hotel condominiums in Chonburi, Gen Rungroj said.
The 97 “items” seized from the jewelry and gems company Royal Gems Pavilion amounted to B2.964bn, he added.
Also seized was cash held in 30 bank accounts amounting to B136 million, with two Government Savings Bank accounts alone holding B1.5bn, Gen Rungroj noted.
“Revenue Department officials have checked tax payments by OA Transport Co Ltd for the years 2011-2016 and found evidence of tax evasion of over B7bn,” Gen Rungroj said.
“The assets will now become the responsibility of AMLO, in accordance with the law,” he said.
Gen Rungroj also urged any persons with information about suspected illegal operations to AMLO by calling the hotline 1710.
Throughout the press conference yesterday it was not made clear exactly which assets seizures were new.
Police in March this year arrested Thongchai’s wife Nisa Rojrungrangsi, 62, and announced they were already pursuing a investigation of tax evasion amounting to B7.7bn. (See story here.)
In the raid led by Gen Suarchate that resulted in the Nisa’s arrest, a combined team of police commandos, tourist police and other units, armed with search and arrest warrants, searched the couple’s house at the Panuland housing estate in Bang Ramat area of Bangkok.
Thongchai was not home at the time. However, his wife Nisa was.
Authorities for years have been pursuing OA Transport, which operates hundreds of tour buses and has links to numerous other businesses that cater to tourists. They claim the companies have made a fortune from “zero dollar” tours in which foreigners, mainly Chinese, are lured into buying cheap tour packages in Thailand but forced to buy unusually expensive souvenirs and services during their stay.
In September 2016, police already announced that they had seized B4.7bn in assets from the OA Transport network of companies. (See story here.)
In September last year, four members of the Rojruangrungsri family pressed charges against Bangkok and Crime Suppression Division police for false arrest after a court found them not guilty of operating “zero-dollar tours’. (See story here.)