Thai police chief demoted over ‘zero-dollar’ tour scam cover up

Millions of tourists from China prepaid for their tours but police allege they were strong-armed into selected, over-priced shops providing kickbacks to the "zero-dollar tour" operators. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The Phaya Thai police chief has been assigned to an inactive post after he failed to gather sufficient evidence against suspects involved in zero-dollar tour scams, a police source says.

The Criminal Court late last month dropped charges against 13 suspects due to insufficient evidence. They were accused of luring mostly Chinese tourists via cheap tour packages into buying overpriced products and services in Thailand.

Pol Col Nitiwat Saensing has been transferred to work at the Metropolitan Police Division 1 operation centre for at least 30 days or until he receives a new order, the source said yesterday, citing a recent order signed by Pol Maj Gen Watcharaphong Damrongsi, chief of Metropolitan Police Division 1, which oversees the Phaya Thai area in Bangkok.

His order reportedly gives only a broad reason behind the transfer, saying the transfer is necessary to ensure “more efficient management” and “avoid damages” that may occur to the government.

Pol Col Nitiwat will be replaced by Pol Col Somsakchai Amonsongcharoen, deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Division 1. The latter will continue his present job while serving as acting Phaya Thai police chief, according to the order.

The source said his transfer is a result of the court ruling which saw the 13 suspects escape the axe.

Pol Col Nitiwat was not available for comment yesterday.

In October last year, prosecutors proceeded against the 13 suspects, following raids on companies believed to be involved in the zero-dollar tour network.

An initial investigation found they were involved in irregularities in an itinerary in which Chinese tourists were offered free bus services but taken to buy overpriced products from shops connected with the suspects.

They faced various accusations including, besides the zero-dollar scam, illegally running tour services.

However, the court found there was no evidence to support the claim. Some alleged victims said they received a “good impression” during their visit to Thailand. – Bangkok Post

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