By Wilawan Watcharasakwet
Thai officials said Wednesday that police had arrested a local company’s chief executive on suspicion of defrauding an American firm of millions of dollars last year for medical gloves it never supplied amid a global surge in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Separately, a Thai court sentenced an employee of another firm to four years in prison for exporting used gloves to a U.S. company, the attorney-general’s office said.
Kampee Kampeerayannon, the CEO of Sufficiency Economy City Co. Ltd., was arrested at one of the company’s offices in Bangkok for defrauding U.S. firm Rock Fintek, Police Col. Chetpan Kitticharoeksak said.
“Police went to the office of the Sufficiency Economy City on Nov. 2 and arrested Kampee Kampeerayannon, the CEO, for fraud and presenting fake information online,” Chetpan told reporters Wednesday.
Rock Fintek signed a $15.5 million contract for medical gloves with Sufficiency Economy, in a deal struck online in October 2020, Chetpan said. The American firm paid the Thai firm a deposit of $6.2 million last December, but got no gloves as it had expected in January this year.
A representative of Rock Fintech then flew to Thailand and filed a police complaint against Sufficiency Economy, Chetpan said, but he did not specify when.
“A police team searched for the company in Sakaeo province [on the Thai-Cambodia border] where it was registered. Except for the company signage, there was only a vast jungle there, no factory,” Chetpan said.
Police were unsuccessful in another attempt to find a Sufficiency Economy facility as well, in Chon Buri province near Bangkok. Here they found a factory that was shut, Chetpan said.
BenarNews contacted the company but did not immediately hear back on Wednesday.
Three more plaintiffs
Police also said that the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) began an investigation into three cases of potential fraud in the supply of medical gloves, at the request of U.S. authorities.
The attorney-general’s office disclosed on Tuesday that an employee of a different company, Paddy the Room Trading Ltd., had been arrested in March, and sentenced on Saturday, for producing and selling used gloves to the U.S
Pipatpol Homjanya, the employee, was initially sentenced to eight years in prison, but that was reduced to four because he showed “good cooperation” during the trial, the attorney-general’s office said.
A senior official from Paddy Trading, who police said was a Chinese man named Luk Fei Yang, could not be charged because he had fled Thailand, the AG’s office said. It did not provide more details.
Police said they were investigating a third entity called Collection Company – a representative company for Paddy the Room – that allegedly exported latex gloves instead of nitrile gloves to a U.S. company called AirQueen, which lost $2.7 million in the deal.
BenarNews contacted these two Thai companies but neither one responded promptly.
Police said at least three other plaintiffs – from France, the U.S. and Hong Kong – have also filed complaint to Thai authorities.