Thailand launches crackdown on huge international fraud
In a deal worth US$2.7 million, the firm allegedly exported some ten million pairs of used rubber medical gloves from Thailand to the United States. The gloves were found to be pre-used and repackaged, according to a report by CNN. Some were said to be dirty and even bloodstained. Their original source has not been disclosed.
But Paddy the Room is just one of hundreds, even thousands, of other outstanding cases of fraud in SE Asia. Some involve middlemen and agents pocketing hefty deposits from overseas entrepreneurs hoping to cash in on the huge worldwide demand for medical gloves for protection against Covid, while others focus on unauthorised production and repackaging of medical gloves and unlawful usage of trademarks, including SkyMed and Sri Trang.
Chasing the scammers is an expensive and time-consuming business, says a British businessman who is now suing a Thai company for the return of his deposit – or delivery of the gloves.
“Because we are not based in Thailand, we have to work through a local lawyer. The expenses mount and we aren’t really in control of what’s happening,” says the man. “It’s very frustrating.”
A warrant for the arrest of the alleged fraudster in this case has been issued and some of his assets in Thailand and overseas have been seized. Using a third country to avoid jurisdiction is a common ploy.
The scam involving Paddy the Room eventually led to the kidnap for ransom of Wei Yu Chung, a Taiwanese executive of the firm, at a Bangkok restaurant earlier this year, allegedly by a group of Americans.
Louis Ziskin, head of the US company that bought the used gloves, was arrested in connection with the kidnap but released later after he proved he was not involved. He left Thailand in August. In an interview with Thai PBS World, Ziskin alleged “a retired general living in Lopburi” was the mastermind behind the scam.
The international frenzy for medical gloves and other personal protective equipment has earned Thailand and Malaysia vast sums of legitimate money and created several new billionaires, including Bangkok-based Somwang Sincharoenkul of Sri Trang Agro-Industry, one of the country’s biggest glove manufacturers.
ut the scale of the scams is also thought to be so vast and complex that the websites of many genuine glove manufacturers now carry fraud alerts, warning visitors to contact the company before buying from agents who claim to represent them.
“Thailand needs to urgently clamp down on these fraudsters,” noted a Bangkok researcher. “Even though huge sums of money are flowing in one way or another, the country’s reputation is at stake.”
Ironically, the demand for PPE is expected to increase even after the pandemic disappears as more and more people become aware of the need for gloves and other equipment.