SID FRAUD INVESTIGATION: Three arrested over Bt900m pyramid scheme

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The Special Investigation Department (SID) has uncovered a pyramid scheme that has defrauded about 50,000 people of Bt900 million over several years.

Three people were arrested on Thursday evening in connection with the scheme.

At a press conference yesterday General Sombat Amornwiwat, the director-general of SID, identified the three suspects as Kittipong Methatham, 45, Amporn Wasuwat, 60 and Thanakij Chatthannipes, 25. Kittipong and Amporn are executives of Green Planet Corporation while Thanakij is the managing director of Ruam Ruay Okane International.

Both companies are located in the Wongwanich Building on Phetburi Road in Bangkok’s Ratchathewi district.

Green Planet Corporation also has members of a famous family, Permying and Anurut Wongwa-nich, on its board of directors. However, Sombat said it was unclear at this stage whether Permying and Anurut were in-volved in the suspected fraud because they were not authorised to carry out company transactions.

“We are going to investigate further,” Sombat said.

Anurut told The Nation that his sister, who is Kittipong’s wife, asked his permission to include his name as one of the company’s board of directors. “However I have no administrative power over the company,” he said.

SID launched an investigation into the two companies after complaints were lodged in October.

Investigators have found that the two companies were linked to a larger, parent company, which registered as a direct-sales company in 1999. The group then aggressively recruited members through word of mouth and Internet advertisements.

Each member was required to pay a Bt200 entrance fee, buy Bt18,000 worth of electronic appliances and find 17 new members within one year.

A member able to recruit 17 additional new members was to receive a motorcycle as a reward while one able to recruit 180 new members or more was to receive a Toyota Vios car. Anyone bringing in more than 280 new recruits was to get a Toyota Camry sedan, and anyone who recruited more than 380 new members was promised a Mercedes Benz.

SID said about 50,000 had applied for membership, resulting in Bt910 million in income for the company, which has spent only Bt300 million on the prize cars.

SID officials said such activities could be considered fraudulent. All three suspects denied any wrongdoing.

The companies’ branches in Chiang Mai, Songkhla, Nakhon Ratchasima, Ratchaburi and Khon Kaen were also searched.

Published on February 12, 2005

Piyanuch Thamnukasetchai, Kornwika Kongdejsakda

The Nation

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