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Phuket to crack down on illegal foreign businesses using Thai nominees

Written by World Events

Phuket administration has agreed to set up a centre to deal with illegal alien businesses, after complaints from Thai business operators that many foreigners have set up businesses on the resort island, using their Thai wives or other Thai nationals as nominees.

Governor Sophon Suwannarat said the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) will be asked to help, especially in checking the money trails of the Thai nominees and the identities of the real foreign business operators.

The governor admitted that it is difficult to crack down on these businesses, because they are legally registered, with 51% of the shares owned by their Thai wives or other Thai nominees and, on numerous occasions, when officials visited their business premises, they would claim to be the owners of the businesses.

There are more than 200 companies with foreigners holding a 49% percent stake operating in Phuket, in such businesses as massage parlours, restaurants, tour agencies, tattoo and cannabis shops and car rental services. The foreign businesspeople include Russian, German, Swedish, Chinese and South Korean nationals.

Governor Sophon cut short his European trip after he was ordered by Interior Minister Anutin Charnvirakul to return to Phuket to deal with the problem of illegal foreign businesses, following the incident over a week ago when a Swiss national allegedly assaulted a Thai doctor, whom he had accused of trespassing on his property when she sat on the staircase of his rented villa on Yamu Beach in Phuket.

Pol Maj-Gen Sinlert Sukhum, commander of Phuket police, said that, after the establishment of the centre, police will coordinate with local administration officials to check foreign business partnerships and deal with those found to be using Thai nationals as nominees.

According to the DSI’s investigation, there are two groups of businesses with organised crime connections. One is a Russian group in the real estate business, catering to foreign customers, and the other are Chinese and South Koreans, mostly operating integrated tourism businesses, covering hotels, restaurants, spas and travel agencies, catering to South Korean and Chinese group tours.

Pol Col Parinya Klinkesorn, deputy police spokesman warned that any Thais who willingly act as nominees in foreign run businesses may face a jail term of three years and/or a fine of up to one million baht if convicted.

The foreigners involved may face deportation and blacklisting, he added.

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