Thai actor Jiratpisit Jaravijit has been released on a 2 million Thai Baht (approximately U.S. $60,000) bail after he was arrested by local authorities on Wednesday following a complaint that he fraudulently lured a foreigner into investing 797 million Thai Baht (around U.S. $24 million) in digital currency, as reported by Bangkok Post. The television artist and commercials actor was arrested on Wednesday in the capital of Bangkok while he was at Cineplex Ratchayotihin complex for a film shoot. The criminal court issued a warrant for his arrest on July 26, being charged for collusion in money laundering.
The ‘Dragon Deceit’
It is believed that Jaravijit was part of a mafia that defrauded a Finnish national into Aarni Otava Saarimaa, telling him that they would acquire shares in firms that had made investments in Dragon Coin. The defrauded Finnish Otava, lodged a complaint late last year after finding out about the perpetrators of the fraud. The complaint told authorities at the Crime Suppression Division that bitcoins equivalent of 797 million Thai Baht were transferred to unknown bitcoin electronic wallets and neither did he receive any dividends from the claimed companies, nor an invitation to their shareholders’ meeting.
The Thai newspaper says that a multimillion-dollar scam carried out by using cryptos, made it quite difficult to trace.
The complainant told police at the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) that 797 million baht worth of bitcoin was transferred to the suspects’ e-wallets. The complainant never received any dividends from the claimed companies nor an invitation to their shareholders’ meetings.
It was also disclosed that the “companies” did not invest in Dragon Coin and that the suspects repeatedly sidestepped questions when quizzed about what was happening.
A Family Affair
The actor is one of seven suspects in the alleged fraud. Crime Suppression Division commander Maitree Chimcherd said it was alleged that Jiratpisit and his elder brother Parinva Jaravijit had defamed Mr. Saarimaa and later transferred the stolen money to relatives. According to him, after obtaining the bitcoins, the cryptocurrency holdings were converted into THB before being moved to bank accounts belonging to Jaravijit’s siblings and subsequently various other members of the gang.
Police obtained warrants for the arrest of Mr. Parinva and his elder sister, Supitcha Jaravijit and would seek warrants to bring in the other four suspects, who were well known businessmen at the Stock Exchange of Thailand. The police found that the Jaravijit family had a good social and financial standing and ran a restaurant in Chon Buri. The other 4 suspects had flown out of the country and would be later charged with public fraud.
The gang lured the victim to transfer 5,564 bitcoins to its e-wallet, claiming the payment was for the shares of three firms, including DNA 2002 Public Company Limited, said Chimcherd.
CSD deputy commander Pol Colonel Chakrit Sawasdee said the authorities had already seized land worth more than Thai Baht 200 million owned by Jiratpisit’s siblings, as investigation suggests the plots might have been bought with the ill-gotten gains. Additionally, bank accounts belonging to 51 suspects have been frozen by the anti-money laundering agency. Elder brother Parinya, reportedly possesses more than U.S. $3.3 million in his bank account while the bank account of his elder sister named Supitcha contains approximately U.S. $4.2 million. Jaravijit’s bank account, on the other hand, possesses U.S. $649,000. Other bank accounts of alleged gang members contain amounts ranging between U.S. $2 million and U.S. $4.9 million.
The Bangkok Post now reports that the actor has been released on a U.S. $2 million bail following the alleged charges. In his defense, Jaravijit has proclaimed innocence saying his brother Parinya used his bank account. Though Parinya is on the run, Supitcha as seeked dialogue with the police.
Financial Fraud on the Rise in Thailand
As reported by The Nation, according to the Bank of Thailand, complaints related to financial fraud are on the rise with as many as 1,482 cases last year. This marked a 13.7% increase from the previous year.
Most of the complainants had been deceived by offers made via phone calls, emails or social media. Many people were talked into investing in community enterprises, which were falsely claimed to be backed by foreign entities.
Thuntee Sukchotrat, an IT expert, and co-founder of JIBEX which is an exchange for cryptocurrency trading, said that the lack of regulations on digital asset trading left room for syndicates to deceive people.
Now the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] has issued regulations to govern digital asset transactions, so investors are better protected, Thuntee said.
At present, there are five digital asset exchanges operating in Thailand, but they have not yet received an official licence from the SEC. They were expected to get their licence this year, he said, adding that some 20 companies were seeking licences so far.