IT experts to join team probing UFUN pyramid scam: Thai police chief

IT experts to join team probing UFUN pyramid scam: Thai police chief
Thai police at a conference about UFUN's dealings.

Three teams - including a newly established team made up of technology experts and foreign affairs co-ordinators - will probe the UFUN Store's alleged pyramid scheme, police chief General Somyot Poompunmuang said yesterday.

Meanwhile, two executives of UDBP Management (Thailand) Co - Malaysian manager Kevin Lai, 49, and Chinese deputy manager Yang Yuan Zhao, 48 - who were implicated because the firm served as a consultant to UFUN Store, were brought to Ratchadapisek Criminal Court to seek an initial 12 days in detention.

The duo, who denied wrongdoing, will be detained until May 27 until police have interviewed six witnesses and the result of a Bank of Thailand probe is known. Police objected to the pair being released on bail, saying this case was a transnational crime and they may tamper with evidence or flee.

Three Chinese male employees, aged 27-38, were also brought for detention a charge of working in the Kingdom without permission. They also maintained they were innocent.

At yesterday's meeting to set the investigation guidelines at Bangkok's Sutthisan Police Station, Somyot said police had searched the UDBP office in Huai Kwang, which was operated as a financial institution without the Bank of Thailand's permission, and arrested two UDBP executives plus seven other UDBP staff on Thursday.

Police initially found information in computers suggesting that the alleged fraudulent scheme had been carried out in various countries, duping people in China, Malaysia, Vanuatu, and Thailand. This makes it a transnational crime affecting national security, Somyot said.

So, deputy national police chief General Chakthip Chaijinda, who oversees national security, had been ordered to step in, set up a team to join the UFUN case investigators, led by assistant national police chief Pol Lt Gen Suwira Songmeta. This should help in gathering evidence, probing and arresting those involved in the scheme, Somyot said.

Police would contact their counterparts in Vanuatu, Malaysia, as well as China to work together on this.

Somyot said the prime minister was updated daily on progress in the case and he had instructed officers to proceed with the investigation without fear of any influential figures.

Regarding the search of the UDBP office and a report that UFUN had deposited Bt320 million (S$12.6 million) at this firm to guarantee its "U-Token" currency, Suwira said the two companies were business partners. He said UDBP took allegedly ill-gotten money from UFUN for a "new kind of pyramid scheme".

He said initial investigation found the UDBP scheme had 8,706 members in other countries, who had wired Bt30,000 per head into it, so losses could exceed Bt300 million.

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