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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Latest scam in Thailand for tourists

BANGKOK - AN ALLEGED extortion scam targeting foreign travellers shopping at duty-free

Duty Free ShopsImage by code_martial via Flickr

shops in Bangkok's international airport has turned up the heat on the Thai authorities.
In most instances, the victims claimed they were accused of shoplifting or theft, arrested and then made to part with a substantial sum of money to secure their release. Central to the scam is a man who helps mediate between the accused and the police - for a fee.

article from The Strait Times Singapore, report Nirmal Ghosh

Duty Free ShopImage by code_martial via Flickr

Britain, Denmark and Ireland have issued advisories warning their citizens to be on their guard. A Thai Foreign Ministry official on Friday said the government was concerned and was doing everything it could to ensure the safety of tourists.
Allegations of the scam surfaced about two months ago in e-mails circulating among travellers which then found their way onto travel websites and blogs.

The allegations were unsubstantiated until two British IT professionals from Cambridge went public with their story. On April 25, Mr Stephen Ingram and Ms Xi

BANGKOK, THAILAND - DECEMBER 1:  Passengers st...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Lin were about to board their flight back to London when they were stopped by airport security. They were told that CCTV cameras had caught Ms Xi stealing a Givenchy wallet.
Even though no wallet was found after a search of their bags, the two were taken to separate rooms for questioning. The next morning, a Sri Lankan by the name of Tony appeared and said he was an interpreter helping the Thai police.

He took the travellers to meet the local police commander. The two said they were told to expect to spend months in Bangkok's notorious Bangkwang prison - the infamous 'Bangkok Hilton' - before their case was heard. But they would be freed if they forked out US$12,250 (S$17,600) in 'bail' money and 'fees' for Tony. The couple, whose passports were confiscated, eventually paid up and had to sign papers apparently clearing them of the charges before they could leave.
Bangkok is a favourite destination for Australians. More than 800,000 visited Thailand in 2007

Ms Ruth Lin, marketing and communications manager of SA Tours, said: 'It is quite unfortunate...You will soon see governments, such as Australia, issuing travel advisories against visits to Thailand.' Since most visitors do not speak Thai, they are likely to panic when put in a situation like the Western travellers. 'It is foreigners now, but Asians could be also targeted,' she added.

While there have not been reports of Australians falling victim to the airport scam, at least one frequent traveller has now decided to stay away. 'This is frightening,' said Penny Wardman Chua, who is in her 40s and has been to Thailand several times. 'I am the kind of traveller who does not leave the airport without buying...I was planning to go (to Thailand) next year ...but now I don't want to go.

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