More than 100 Thai immigration officials are expected to face bribery-related charges in the coming weeks, after allegedly helping hundreds of Chinese immigrants enter Thailand illegally to set up criminal enterprises.
Thailand has long been a destination for Chinese tourists, investors and entrepreneurs. However, alongside legal businesses and legitimate economic activities, there are also many illegal Chinese businesses operating in the country. These businesses engage in activities ranging from gambling, prostitution and human trafficking to counterfeit goods, drug trafficking and money laundering.
Senior police officer accused of bribery
On 9 March, Deputy National Police Chief General Surachet Hakparn told reporters that cases had been prepared against the officers, at least one of whom held the senior rank of police general. His files have been given to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which will use them to file charges relating to multiple claims of misconduct in public service, including bribery.
Chinese people linked to the three have operated illegal or “grey” companies in Thailand for decades, but they have mostly avoided prosecution with the aid of unscrupulous government employees, especially those in the police force.
Recent information obtained by opposition lawmakers suggests that some suspected triad leaders have been living in Thailand for more than three decades. With the help of unscrupulous immigration officials, they were able to repeatedly renew their visas, allowing them to stay in Thailand for more than 20 years in some cases.
The case began when an entertainment establishment in Bangkok serving mainly Chinese people without a license was raided late October last year. More than 100 of its customers had positive drug tests. Several party drugs, expensive cars and gambling equipment were also seized during the operation.
Questionable Visa Services Provided by Thai Immigration
Inquiries revealed that the Chinese have established illegal business empires in Thailand using shady front firms. According to officials, this was made possible by dubious visa services provided by Thai immigration officials to the individuals, who later formed “grey firms” in the kingdom.
The owners of the cash-flush triad are also suspected of using legitimate enterprises and real estate purchased through Thai nominees to launder their illegal money.
One of them, known as Tuhao, was granted citizenship and changed her name to Chayanat Kornchayanant after marrying a Thai police officer. When he turned himself in last November to avoid an arrest warrant on drug-related charges, authorities seized real estate, expensive automobiles, a private jet and nearly $90 million in cash.
Following those revelations, many commentators and public figures expressed concern about the potential long-term damage of illegal Chinese activities that Thai businesses and power structures cannot stop.
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