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The luxury Phuket home in Bang Tao that police say was a fraud hq

China Money Scam: 40 Arrests in Phuket Crime Bust

Friday, August 7, 2009
Updating Phuketwan News Report

FORTY Chinese have been arrested on Phuket with police raiding a luxury pool mansion in Bang Tao to expose an international money-scamming gang dealing in millions of yuan.

Orchestrated from Bangkok and involving some of Thailand's leading officers, the arrests climaxed one of the largest police operations seen on Phuket.

Raids took place on six houses around the island, with the hq in one of Phuket's prime real estate zones. Well-heeled tourists come to this part of the island to enjoy five-star accommodation and expensive restaurants.

Undercover officers have been eyeing the gang's operations on Phuket for two weeks.

The Andaman holiday coast is full of contrasts, with hungry and desperate boat people coming ashore amid classy resorts that inspired the New York Times earlier this year to label Phuket its ''five-star destination of 2009.''

Another extraordinary paradox was exposed today with the alleged money scam being run from Phuket's five-star pool villa heartland.

Large numbers of police from Bangkok along with local officers descended on the houses in a coordinated raid about 10.30am.

The Chinese were all being held and interrogated at the expensive rented house from which the head of the alleged gang ran the operation.

Police said the gang had been operating from the island for two months, centred on a house that was being rented for 100,000 baht a month.

The rambling two-floor home has its own large pool. Downstairs, in a call centre, were 46 telephones. Officers also took possession of five computer notebooks and 30 mobile telephones.

Telephone numbers from Taiwan and Shianghai were used as part of the scheme. Money was transferred to take advantage of variations in international currency rates.

The group had previously been operating in Chiang Mai and Pattaya. None of the Chinese now being held have work permits.

The heart of the alleged money-laundering operation lies well within the five-kilometre security zone that was thrown around last month's Asean summit by 10,000 soldiers and police.

Twenty-seven foreign ministers or senior delegates attended, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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