An ongoing investigation reveals that transnational rings are behind the smuggling of luxury cars into Thailand.
"The smugglers are clearly influential people, with connections in many countries," a member of the investigation team said yesterday, on condition of anonymity. Such smuggling has already cost the country at least Bt1.8 billion (S$70,000) in lost tax revenue.
Meanwhile, Pol Lt-Colonel Korrawat Panprapakorn, who heads the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) Bureau of Regional Operation Centres, disclosed that relevant authorities' examination of 378 luxury vehicles registered as "assembled in Thailand" showed that false declarations had been made in many cases to evade tax.
Thailand imposes a tax rate of not less than 300 per cent on imported luxury cars. Luxury vehicles whose parts are imported and then assembled in Thailand, however, are subject to only 70 per cent tax.
Some people have apparently made false declarations in order to avoid the high tax rate.
The DSI and other relevant agencies started the examination of luxury vehicles that had been declared as "assembled in Thailand" since August last year, after an accident involving a suspicious vehicle.
Korrawat said the existing database showed there were 6,575 "assembled vehicles" in Thailand and of them, 548 assembled cars were worth more than Bt4 million each.
The cars summoned for inspections are worth more than Bt4 million each.
"Of these expensive vehicles, 215 have been submitted for inspection on a voluntary basis," he said. "We have ordered about 163 others also to undergo inspection."
Korrawat said officials would try to examine 150 others soon.
"We will inform their owners that if they don't submit their vehicles for inspection, the DSI will go after them anyway," he said.
Korrawat said authorities had also found that some vehicles that had been registered as "assembled in Thailand" were in fact stolen and smuggled from Malaysia.
"For instance, we have sought arrest warrants for two Malaysians who drove two stolen Mercedes-Benz cars into Thailand after which these vehicles were declared as assembled here," he said.
Korrawat added that some assembled vehicles were also stolen from the Customs Department's free zone - or tax-free zone - as these vehicles are categorised as waiting for export to other countries.
An informed source said evidence available to the authorities showed corruption had facilitated the smuggling of luxury cars.
"Even import documents are falsified," the source said.