The gang created fake websites and apps for trading oil stocks — Raids went down in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Chiang Rai, and Chiang Mai.
On April 1st, 2021, the Royal Thai Police announced the results of “Operation Shutdown Petro Scam”, which went after gangs identified as Chinese across Thailand — from Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, to Bangkok and Nonthaburi.
Although the gang was led by Chinese operators, those arrested included 9 Thai nationals, 4 Chinese nationals, 1 Singaporean, and 1 Malaysian.
Li Tianhe, a Chinese national, was one of the suspects identified in the report. He tricked people into investing into fake oil and energy stocks. He operated out of a boiler room call center. In total, officers seized 100 items including cash, luxury cars, and gold worth 30 million baht from Mr. Tianhe.
One victim said that he was deceived into investing more than 2.5 million baht into the fraudulent oil stocks after visiting a website identified as sp9ige.cn (currently offline), which was established sometime in late 2020.
The fraudster who contacted him claimed large and rapid returns from investing in the company. The victim did receive real dividends initially from his investments, which coaxed him into investing more capital.
After investing more, the victim was unable to withdraw the money. The gang claimed that COVID-19 was freezing up the funds, along with tax issues.
The victims caught on and started to file official complaints. More than 500 million baht in damages have been estimated from the coordinated fraud, and 31 arrest warrants were issued in the operation.
The investigation has been ongoing for more than four months, from the end of November 2020 until the present.
The headquarters for the gang’s operation was Bang Khun Thian district in Bangkok.
The gang created a smartphone app that victims could use to track their investments, which included oil and gold mining stocks.
More than 291 million baht in transfer slips have been identified so far, with 260 million baht going through bank accounts in Thailand. The payments were structured in such a way to avoid reporting requirements to the Revenue Department, which is set at 2 million baht.
The transfers were done in amounts of not more than 1.8 million baht to avoid these reporting requirements. All of the bank accounts identified with the fraud have been frozen.
The suspects are charged with fraud, computer crimes, and conspiring with a group of more than 5 people to launder money. Further arrests are anticipated as the investigation unravels.
Video of asset seizures and police conference:
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My take: A common thread in more sophisticated fraud is an initial trust-building stage where the mark is able to withdraw gains from the scheme.
This builds trust between the fraudster and the mark, and leads to further losses in the scheme.
Every month or two there is a major Chinese fraud operation like this that is taken down. If there are other updates in this case, True Crime Thailand will report them.
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