The Commerce Ministry today is beginning its investigation into the illegal export of soiled, used and low-quality medical gloves to the United States following publication of an explosive CNN investigation that industry leaders admit has ruined Thailand’s reputation as a PPE exporter.
Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said officials are now looking into the report of 80 million pieces of used medical gloves exported to the United States. A fact-finding committee will meet today.
The minister said related agencies are now making a thorough investigation into this claim, with initial information suggesting that the act was done by a group of swindlers seeking to reap profits from the pandemic-driven demand increase.
Jurin said Tuesday he plans to fully pursue allegations that Thai politicians and bureaucrats were involved in the scams in hopes that it will restore the industry’s severely damaged reputation overseas.
Much of CNN’s 2,700-word report focuses on a Bangkok exporter named Paddy the Room Trading Co.
The Thai FDA raided the company in December, finding found stacks of trash bags filled with loose, multicolored gloves of materials and quality.
Workers were stuffing the old gloves into counterfeight SriTrang-brand boxes, making it seem as if they came from the legitimate, well-known manufacturer which said it has never done business with the shady dealer.
Tens of millions of dollars of those fake boxes of dirty gloves ended up in the U.S., passed off as much-sought nitrile when, in fact, most were made of low-grade rubber of vinyl and covered in dirt and even blood.
Bizarrely, the rubber-glove scandal is entwined in the alleged kidnapping of a Taiwanese businessman at a Bangkok restaurant in March.
Louis Ziskin, head of an American importer called AirQueen, was one of two Americans who were arrested with Thai national Ekbodin Prasitnarit for the abduction of Wen Yu Chung, 60, a representative for Collection Co., a middleman working Paddy the Room, at L’Oliva, a restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 36, on March 28.
Ziskin, 52, had contracted with Collection Co. to recover the $2.7 million he was swindled out of by Paddy, but never received any money. He and compatriot Hughes Manchester, 41, allegedly set up a meeting with Wen under the pretense of buying more gloves when, in fact, their intention was to grab him to recover AirQueen’s lost investment.
Ziskin, an ex-convict who spent more than a 10 years in prison for smuggling ecstasy into the U.S. in 2000,
behind bars after he was caught smuggling the drug ecstasy into the US in 2000, denies he was at L’Oliva and the charges of illegal assembly, abduction, attempted murder, and extortion.
Thai police, however, failed to make their case, missing a deadline to send evidence to prosecutors. Ziskin was allowed to leave Thailand and flew home to Los Angeles, although police claim their investigation remains open.
Others arrested weren’t as lucky and are still in custody.
Industry executives and experts claim there are many more warehouses just like Paddy’s still in operation in Thailand, all of them trying to turn a quick baht passing off hazardous material as personal protective equipment.
CNN quoted Douglas Stein, an industry consultant who has been tracking the fraud from Thailand – the world’s top supplier of nitrile gloves and other PPE – and Southeast Asia that gloves are the “most dangerous commodity on Earth right now.”
Veerasith Sincharoenkul, president of the Thai Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association, said the actions reported by CNN soiled the reputation of Thai rubber-glove producers among American and European buyers, country’s main markets.
Veerasith urged the government to find and prosecute those behind such exports and better monitor PPE companies that popped up since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He added that foreign importers should check with his association, which maintains a full list of credible suppliers.
Exports of Thai rubber gloves to the U.S. in the first eight months of 2021 totaled US$1.1 billion, a 134-percent increase from 2020, when supply of gloves, masks and PPE was still constrained.