Monday 13 February 2012

Pattaya's foreign criminals feel the heat



This is why the Provincial Region 2 has established the Transnational Crime Coordination Centre (TNCC) to deal directly with foreigners who come to Thailand to commit crimes. The existence of the centre has shed some light on how diverse the transnational gangs in Pattaya are and how their illegal businesses in this tourist centre have flourished. French nationals Nagim Hassainia, 33, and Samir Raihane, 41, who are suspects in a credit card fraud case, were arrested on Feb 2. The suspects were nabbed at a hotel in Pattaya after police found them withdrawing money from an ATM using forged credit cards containing information stolen from other countries. They sent 70% of the money back to their networks in France and took the rest of the money, the TNCC said. At least 10 members of the French gang are thought to be still on the loose. Some of them are responsible for stealing credit card information and ATM pins using a skimmer. Police seized 31 fake credit cards and 125,000 baht from the suspects. "This case could cause serious damage to Thailand's reputation," said Pol Lt Gen Panya Mamen, chief of the the Provincial Police Region 2. He said there were many foreign criminals on Pattaya's streets _ and one way to better deal with them was to improve the capacity of the TNCC, especially its ability to gather information and put it into the police database. "I have to admit there are a lot of foreign criminals who are tourists in disguise. Some are here to work with their Thai counterparts, while others act on their own," Pol Lt Gen Panya said. "Some are paedophiles. Others are criminals wanted by police in other countries yet come here pretending to be language teachers. All this makes Pattaya sound like a horrible city." Pol Lt Gen Panya hoped the Provincial Police Region 2 would achieve its goal of significantly decreasing the number of "unwanted visitors" in Pattaya within six months. The Provincial Police Region 2 is also stepping up efforts to strictly enforce the Immigration Act in which foreign suspects who are found to have criminal records or believed to be involved in a crime will have their visa nullified immediately and be extradited. These suspects will also be blacklisted by Thai immigration authorities. "They normally move around from Pattaya to Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai and then return to Pattaya again. If we can pool information, it will become easier to track them," Pol Lt Gen Panya said. Different gangs committed different crimes, ranging from theft to murder, he said. Pol Lt Gen Panya said some French gangs were known to be involved with fake credit cards and ATM cards. He said some Colombian gangs were involved with theft, whereas some Taiwanese gangs were linked to call centre scams. Pol Lt Col Chitdecha Songhong and Pol Capt Prajakpong Suriya of the TNNC, who arrested members of a French gang, agreed that inter-agency cooperation was crucial to uprooting a transnational gang. Pol Capt Prajakpong said it was difficult to locate foreign suspects even if police had pictures of them because they were frequently on the move and it was not easy to find information about them. "Pattaya is a popular criminal base because it's a hub of tourists and expatriates and the city has a lot of diamond and gold shops," he said. "The city also has many unregistered or illegal residential services which allow those criminals to stay here and hide away from immigration authorities." The TNNC is working with embassy officials in Pattaya and local banks to keep an eye on foreigners who come to the city to commit crimes.