Gang siphons off money meant for flood victims

More than 500 people have been killed as Thailand reels from the gushing floodwaters.

But that hasn't stopped a criminal gang from cashing in on other people's misery.

Bangkok Post reported that a gang rigged the telephones of a flood donation centre and redirected money meant for flood victims to a private bank account.

It is not clear how much money the gang has siphoned off.

The racket was uncovered after a private company, Workpoint Entertainment Co, filed a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division (CSD).

The company officials became suspicious after they discovered that the money promised by the donors had not been credited to its bank account.

That's when they raised the suspicion that their phone lines may have been tapped, the report said.

Workpoint is the producer of TV show Ratcharot Ma Koey (Thai for "Good fortune befalls you"), which airs every Monday.

Calls redirected

The company has been encouraging viewers to call the donation centre to offer aid to flood victims.

Just before the company filed the complaint with the CSD, its executives had met a business group which pledged a large sum of money through the TV show.

but the donation did not show in the entertainment company's bank account.

Incoming calls were being automatically redirected to an unidentified person, who then told the donors to transfer money to his own bank account.

The siphoning off of donations isn't the only problem officials are grappling with.

Rampant thefts have been reported in the heavily-flooded communities in Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani.

Some thieves simply swim into flooded houses and grab whatever they can and flee.

Others are more organised, scouting in boats during the day for abandoned houses, making a note of them and returning in the dead of the night to carry away whatever they can.

"These thieves usually pose as fishermen, so police on patrol have been instructed to take pictures and the names of everyone they find roaming the swamped areas at night," police regional chief Khamronwit Thupkrachang was quoted as saying.

This article was first published in The New Paper.