Thai authorities caught a foreign businessman believed to have links to a significant money-laundering syndicate on Thursday.
The money-laundering ring was known to have transferred a total of 10 billion baht (USD323 million), much of which has links to drug trafficking.
According to Thai police Maj Gen Veerachon Boontawee, authorities have arrested a Chinese businessman who is believed to be the ringleader in money-laundering operations throughout Thailand. Qaing Ma was named as the Chinese entrepreneur in question.
The arrested Chinese national is the owner of several companies in Thailand that primarily import agricultural tools and machines from China, and exports Thai agricultural products.
According to the police general, Qaing used the businesses to carry out illegal money transfers. Maj Gen Boontawee said:
“[He] created a very complex network of money transfers to cover the origin of the money.”
According to the Thai police, the operations of the money-laundering ring has now been shut down.
The police had previously caught at least 74 suspects involved with the operation, including 13 already in prison, while 35 remain at large. Arrest warrants have also been issued against 109 suspects.
Maj Gen Boontawee also remarked that the syndicate had collectively laundered 10 billion baht from 2018 to 2020.
The illegal money mostly came from drug traffickers in Thailand and Myanmar which is a significant source of illegal drugs in the region, with methamphetamine its most notable product.
Thailand has been identified to be a transit point and a significant market for illegal drugs.
Thai authorities began to investigate after they seized nine million methamphetamine tablets in January last year.
The resulting investigation found several bank books that have connections to Qaing’s bank accounts.
The arrested Chinese entrepreneur’s bank accounts served as both the source and destination of the cash flows.
The companies owned by Qaing also served as “underground banks” for Chinese businessmen who are seeking to evade money transfer fees.
Everyone involved in the operation so far faces charges of involvement with a transnational crime and money laundering. Sentences range from 5-15 years in prison and/or a 200,000 baht fine.
Qaing was flown to Chiang Mai and unavailable for comment.
Maj Gen Boontawee said he expected more arrests to be made concerning the case.