Suspect claims she did not intend to cheat anyone, blames 'uncontrollable situation'
POLICE have asked the Anti-Money Laundering Office to confiscate assets of Pasit Ariyalapit, who is at the heart of a much-publicised alleged tour scam.
Initial contact with Pasit’s banks found that she has a total of Bt3 million in her accounts, said Pol Lt-General Thitirat Nongharnpitak, crime suppression chief, yesterday.
Pasit, also known as “Shogun”, was arrested in Ranong province and charged with fraud. She has maintained her innocence, saying she operated an online business, not a tour company.
In a press briefing, she insisted she had changed her name and surname 10 times because she believed it would bring her luck, not to avoid being prosecuted.
She said the incident at Suvarnabhumi Airport was not her fault, but an uncontrollable situation, she said.
Hundreds of people showed up the airport on April 11 to find that there were no flight bookings for them as promised by Pasit’s WealthEver firm.
Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanawarangkul and police stepped in to provide assistance to them.
They claimed Pasit’s company had lured them into paying between Bt9,000 to Bt20,000 for a trip to Japan. The price is relatively low compared to a normal ticket.
They said they were told they would be travelling to Japan by chartered flight.
“I have run an online business and I brought customers to Osaka and Hong Kong as part of a promotional campaign,” Pasit said.
During the press briefing, a group of people who said they were victims of the tour scam angrily asked Pasit when they would be refunded.
Noppadon Boonprakong, 34, of Sakhon Nakhon province, said he had no hopes of getting his money back from Pasit. He said his family had paid more than Bt300,000 to Pasit’s company and did not get any products in return. However, he said he believed in the justice system.
It is still unclear how much money is involved in the alleged tour scam, as police have not yet aggregated the complaints against her. People left stranded at the airport were believed to come from all over the country.
Thitirat told reporters that there was not enough evidence to charge Pasit with a lese majeste charge. He was referring to earlier reports, which claimed that Pasit had said palace figures would preside over her firm’s opening ceremony.
Thitirat said police would soon summon about 30 people they suspected of being involved in Pasit’s alleged scheme and police will object to any bail request for Pasit.
Pasit said: “I have run an online business and I took customers to Osaka and Hong Kong as part of a promotional campaign.”
She claimed that her investor in Hong Kong had already booked the flight and had seat numbers for everyone. But she said she learned recently that the chartered flight had to be booked three or four months in advance.
Under the promotion, customers who bought a lot of her products were awarded an overseas trip. “The most popular was a free trip for 40 people to Osaka in February. They paid only Bt500 as an application fee.”
The February trip was successful and customers told their friends, which led to another trip of 200 people to Osaka, she said.
The problem occurred at the airport on April 12 because customers invited too many people, making it difficult to check and control the number, she said.
Asked about a possible refund, Pasit said they would be looking into compensation and disappointed customers would have to show evidence of their payment.
Meanwhile Nitisak Meekuat, Pasit’s lawyer, said without elaboration that that he was quite worried about the case. He is now waiting permission to talk to her.
A provincial Court in Bangkok yesterday issued another arrest warrant for alleged fraud against Pasit.
The warrant states that Pasit had promised a parent of a nine-year-old boy that she would provide modelling work for the boy in Japan in April, last year. She allegedly asked for a deposit of Bt220,000 to manage the deal, but when they went to Japan she did not keep her promise.
The parents claimed that Pasit had promised a full refund. However, the parents were unable to contact Pasit after returning from Japan.