A DRUG-TRAFFICKING gang has gone online and is using direct marketing techniques to attract members and customers.
As of yesterday, while police conducted simultaneous raids on the illicit business, the gang’s online network had more than 9,000 members and a cash flow of at least Bt100 million.
“Riding on the popularity of social media, this network has expanded to 30 provinces in just one year,” Narcotics Suppression Bureau chief Pol Lt-General Sommai Kongwisaisuk said yesterday.
Known as Mun Tuk Med (Every Pill is Fun), the gang has been recruiting members via Facebook and Line platforms. Those interested in joining have to first provide a copy of their national ID and current address. Once this information is verified, the gang delivers the drugs and collects payments through its bank accounts.
Defaulters often face violence, as the gang offers a bounty for their attack.
“We have found that money earned from the drug trade is divided into three: One going to the gang’s chief in the North, the second to a loanshark operation and the third to tyre and auto-accessories shops that are operated as a front to launder illicit gains,” Sommai said.
He was speaking after raiding a shop in Samut Sakhon’s Krathum Baen district. The shop’s owner, Rungroj Jirattikanphan, was arrested yesterday morning for allegedly laundering money for the Mun Tuk Med gang.
“His shop has a cash flow of over Bt100 million,” Sommai said.
However, Rungroj, 29, said he would explain the cash flow in court.
Initially he had told police that he started his business just six months ago and earned only Bt20,000 a month from it.
Police have now seized the shop’s assets, worth more than Bt100 million, pending a full investigation.
Sommai said tyre and auto-accessories shops, believed to have links with the Mun Tuk Med gang, got rid of tyres at a 50-per-cent discount. “They might have thought that frequent transactions via bank accounts would not raise much suspicion as sales were very brisk,” he said.
Sommai said that the alleged gang leader Panyuwit Prathoom, for whom an arrest warrant has been issued, has already fled to a neighbouring country.
In a related development, Provincial Police Region 6 deputy chief Pol Maj-General Wanchai Suwansirikhet said officers under his supervision had also raided two shops in Phitsanulok province on suspicion that they might be laundering money for the Mun Tuk Med gang. The raids had been authorised by court.
Police have not found anything illegal at the shops, which are owned by the same person.
“The owner faces an arrest warrant for a separate money-laundering case. We need to investigate further to see if he worked for this drug-trafficking gang too,” Wanchai said.
Authorities have raided 141 locations in 26 provinces since July 12 and seized more than 16 million meth-amphetamine tablets, 499 kilos of marijuana, 800 grams of heroin and 1,230 kilos of kratom leaves, 16 guns and ammunition. The drug hauls are worth over Bt2 billion. Also seized were a variety of assets worth about Bt338 million.