Over 20 big foreign criminal gangs in Thailand

Over 20 big foreign criminal gangs in Thailand

BANGKOK -More than 20 major transnational gangs are plaguing Thailand - including Russian and Romanian credit card skimming gangs and Latin American thieves and bank robbers, a new study by the Thailand Institute of Justice has revealed.

Acting TIJ deputy director Natee Jitsawang detailed the public organisation's research on foreign criminal gangs in Thailand at a press conference yesterday. Natee said Thailand allowed easy entry into country to accommodate foreigners. As a result, transnational gangs continuously committed crimes in the Kingdom.

He said these criminals continued to develop and adapt their crime techniques while law-enforcement personnel were reshuffled regularly, as a result they could not keep pace with the criminals effectively. There were 266 foreigners from 101 countries in Thai prisons, he said, adding that the study discovered that 22 gangs were involved in identity fraud and thefts.

They included Russian gangs with expertise in ATM and credit card forging, skimming and selling overseas bank customers' information to obtain cash withdrawals in Thailand. The gangs used modern technology that could skim the card information in 30 seconds and download it onto a computer so the card could be forged.

Fake cards were then used to withdraw cash from ATM machines at night to avoid police detection. Even when they were caught, they managed to destroy evidence quickly. The study found that a Romanian gang was also skilled in card skimming and had extensive operations in Thailand.

Natee said the gang imported an electronic card forgery machine from Spain to southern Thailand via post and then produced fake cards to buy goods at shopping malls and jewellery shops or withdraw cash.

He said the gang installed card skimming devices onto ATM machines at various tourist attractions, especially Bangkok's Sukhumvit area.

German gangs stole personal bank details via the Internet by releasing viruses to hack information about bank account logins and passwords while the target accessed their online accounts. The stolen money was then wired to a bank account overseas.

Natee said French and English gangs used cards containing stolen information from bank customers in France and Scandinavia to withdraw cash via ATM machines in Thailand, especially Phuket. These gangs installed small cameras or mobile card skimmer devices to steal information.

There were four Latin American gangs - Colombians, Mexicans, Guatemalans and Peruvians - that commit crimes in Thailand, mostly thefts and robberies.

The Colombians scouted rich housing estates to break in and steal valuables. Some of them also cracked bank safe boxes. Natee said the Mexicans, Guatemalans and Peruvians focused on car theft and stealing from houses, hotels and jewellery fairs.

On Tuesday, the TIJ will stage a seminar on the new faces of crime that will come to the region following the full implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community next year.

Natee hopes that by doing so Thailand and the other ASEAN countries can cooperate in tackling the problem. (***)

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