'Shogun' airlifted to Bangkok, travel fraud probe continues

WealthEver owner Pasit "Shogun" Arinchalatis is taken to the Crime Suppression Division from Ranong in the early hours of Thursday. (Photo by Wassayos Ngamkham)

Police continued to question WealthEver owner Pasit Arinchalatis on Thursday, after she was detained in Ranong and airlifted to Bangkok overnight.

Ms Pasit, also known as "Shogun", faces fraud charges over holiday packages to Japan sold online for travel during Songkran.

Police transferred Ms Pasit and seven other people from Ranong to Bangkok by helicopter early Thursday morning, and Ms Pasit was then questioned at the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) as police .

The interrogation continued later on Thursday. The WealthEver boss faces fraud charges for allegedly deceiving 2,000 tourists who paid for return trips to Japan.

They were left stranded at Suvarnabhumi airport on Tuesday night, after discovering on arrival there that no charter flight had been arranged for them as promised. Another group was supposed to leave on Wednesday, but it was also canceled.

Ms Pasit and people associated with her were initially detained on the authority of the National Council for Peace and Order. Later the same night the Criminal Court approved an arrest warrant for 31-year-old Ms Pasit. No arrest warrants were issued for the others.

Pol Lt Gen Thitirach Nongharnpitak, the Central Investigation Bureau chief, said on Thursday about 30 people were linked to her network.All would be ordered to meet the police, to find out whether they were involved in the alleged scam.

WealthEver claimed to sell food supplements. It used trips to Japan to solicit membership, which started at 500 baht. An 8,380-baht upgrade to another level came with a free trip to Japan and two bottles of supplements.

Police suspect the firm was running a ponzi scheme.

Ms Pasit's lawyer, Nitisak Meekuad, said he was unaware of the nature of her business and was retained to help her fight the fraud charges.

Mr Nitisak said his client told him she had no intention of fleeing the authorities or her members. She had driven to Ranong only to calm herself down after the chaotic scenes at the airport, the lawyer said.

Ms Pasit and her family left a condominium in Nonthaburi and travelled to the southern province on Tuesday night.

At a media briefing in the early hours on Thursday, Ms Pasit said the Japan trips were an exclusive reward for WealthEver members. She claimed the network's leaders had instead sold some of the trips to outsiders, some at higher prices, and the programme spiralled out of control.

She had earlier promised to refund the money in three days, and repeated the promise at the press conference, which was also open to some of the travellers who lodged the complaints against her.

One frustrated customer lost his temper. "You don't even know how people like us, who were cheated, feel," he shouted before walking out of the room.

The WealthEver manager could also be investigated for remarks made in audio clip reminding members of a meeting at a palace to be chaired by a person from the Royal Household Bureau.

Ms Pasit said at the media briefing the event was prepared by an organiser.

Asked about the person who would chair the event, she said: "It's a mom jao but I cannot remember the name."

Pol Lt Gen Thitirach said the remarks on the sound clip were not sufficient to bring a lese majeste charge against her. Investigators were looking to see if there was more evidence, including on communication devices, to substantiate further inquiry.

Lawyer Nitisak said he would wait and see what action police take before responding.

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