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61 Arrested as N. Thailand Police Smash Drug Network’s Money-Laundering Ring

Provincial Police Region 5 chief Pol. Lt. Gen. Prachuab Wongsuk explains the complex drug and money-laundering network at a June 25 news conference.
Provincial Police Region 5 chief Pol. Lt. Gen. Prachuab Wongsuk explains the complex drug and money-laundering network at a June 25 news conference.

Northern Thailand police and financial regulators smashed arrested 61 alleged members of drug-trafficking network that laundered 10 billion baht through dummy import-export companies.

Provincial Police Region 5 chief Pol. Lt. Gen. Prachuab Wongsuk said the arrests came over the past week based on the confession of Chinese national and alleged ringleader Chien Ma, who was captured earlier this month in Bangkok.

The investigation spanned more than a year with suspects from Trang to Chiang Mai, Prachuab said at a news conference Thursday. Bangk records seized showed the network had cash flow of more than 10 billion baht.

The investigation began in March last year with the seizure of 9.4 million methamphetamine tablets in Chiang Rai’s Ban Doo village. Investigators then follow the money trail to a second drug network in the Central region, which sent cash to two Burmese men to purchase drugs from Myanmar.

The key to the operation was a stable of dummy import-export companies used as fronts for international money laundering. Authorities said 49 accounts tied to those firm all traced back to Chien, Prachuab said.

Chien, in turn, would pay people 1,000 baht each to open bank accounts through which orders were made with the import-export companies to bring in commodities including farm products, seafood and meat. The good would then be re-exported to trading firms in Myanmar connected to drug gangs there, thus “cleaning” cleaning the drug money of its origin.