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After the ‘Phoenix’, Commerce Ministry ramps up nominee audits

PHUKET: In the wake of the Phoenix tour boat disaster which killed 47 Chinese tourists, the Commerce Ministry has vowed to step up inspections of business owners, particularly in tourism as well as property, to expose foreign operators using Thai nominees.

By The Phuket News

Thursday 19 July 2018, 03:30PM

Tourist Police Surachate Harkpan called for anyone with information about companies using nominees to call the Tourist Police at 1155. Image: Tourist Police

Tourist Police Surachate Harkpan called for anyone with information about companies using nominees to call the Tourist Police at 1155. Image: Tourist Police

The campaign follows the Phoenix boat tragedy on July 5, which sparked a series of raids by Tourist Police Deputy Commander Pol Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn.

In carrying out the raids, under orders from Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Gen Surachate’s investigators discovered that Woralak “Yui” Rerkchaikarn was a supervisor at TC Blue Dream Co Ltd, which operated mass tours on the Phoenix, and a year later became the company owner.

She initially had B4 million as her registered capital, but later owned the Phoenix boat with investment amounting to B20-30 million, Gen Surachate explained, prompting further investigation into her status as a nominee shareholder in the company, which she ran with her Chinese national husband. (See story here.)

However, Kulanee Issadisai, Director-General of the Business Development Department, reported to the Bangkok Post that investigations this year had uncovered only two businesses in Phuket – one a restaurant owner and the other a car rental firm – allegedly using Thai nominee owners.

No lawsuits have been filed yet, she said.

Since 2015, authorities have investigated 2,136 juristic persons whose ownership is less than 50% held by foreigners, finding 1,783 to have properly registered with Thai authorities – leaving 353 businesses that were operating illegally.

“Twenty-one firms were found to have unclear office locations, with 34 using nominees to operate the business, mostly in tourism and property located in tourism hotspots, though no lawsuits have been filed by authorities,” noted the Bangkok Post report. (See story here.)

This month authorities are investigating one tourism-related business operator and a fruit dealer in Chumphon, said Mrs Kulanee.

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In a related development, the department yesterday (July 18) reported new business registration edged down by 0.2% year-on-year in June to 6,514, but rose 11% from May. Registered capital totalled B24.6 billion, down 40% from June last year.

The top three businesses registered remained general construction, real estate, and restaurant and food outlets.

For the first six months this year, new business registration totalled 37,548, up 4% year-on-year, with a combined registered capital of B143bn, down 12%.

“The department believes new business registrations will continue increasing in the remaining months as the country’s growing economy is boosted by exports and tourism,” Mrs Kulanee said.

“Higher government and private investment, recovering consumer consumption and rising farm prices are also key drivers.”

Mrs Kulanee said the government’s aid package for low-income earners using smartcards is expected to boost domestic consumption. The Cabinet in January approved B35.7bn for the second phase of the welfare scheme, aiming to lift 1 million people out of poverty by financing 34 projects.

The department projects the minimum number of business registrations this year will be 80,000, she said.



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