The purchase off-the-plan Ace Condo development in Patong was offered to buyers without an Environmental Impact Assessment, officials said as they began a rapidly-broadening investigation.
The Anti-Money Laundering Office is likely to be called in to probe the transfer of assets between several companies linked to the scheme, Colonel Angkul Klaiklueng, of the Bangkok-based Consumer Protection Police, told Phuketwan.
The Computer Crimes Act could be applied because the venture was promoted heavily online and on YouTube, he said, before full permission to go ahead had been achieved.
The development, near Patong Hospital, was supposed to be completed in April this year but construction has yet to begin.
Deadlines for the owners to negotiate settlement with disgruntled buyers have continued to pass but authorities do appear to be coming to the conclusion that legal action will be required.
Foreigners who have invested in the project and now want their deposits returned were warned yesterday to contact the Consumer Protection Branch in Bangkok before the end of this week.
Those who do not sign on as ''victims'' of the scheme quickly could face much slower action in getting their money back, the colonel said.
''A total of 21 people have signed on as 'victims' but the total at this early stage could be as high as 48,'' Colonel Angkul said.
''We need to know names and numbers quickly to conclude the first phase of this action.''
It's understood lawyers for the owners have made an offer to repay around 17-18 million baht but that was conditional on a stay in proceedings against the owners.
A meeting of buyers was told at the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation offices in Phuket City yesterday that Governor Nisit Jansomwong had been trying to bring the owners to negotiate a settlement.
It had now been concluded that the owners did not want to repay the cash.
''Time is up, the Consumer Protection Bureau has decided,'' the colonel said.
''Victims'' are to be interviewed by officers at Kathu Police Station in Patong this week while an assessment of the charges that can be laid against the owners will be made.
The Computer Crimes Act is just one of a handful of options.