Last year up to 60 well known and popular celebrities gave evidence to the Thai police in the ongoing investigation into a range of fake beauty and health products that they had endorsed on TV and in a viral online campaign. The products, including slimming pills, caused the deaths of at least three Thai women. It is not known which of the stars will be facing prosecution but on Tuesday, the Deputy National Police Chief Wirachai Songmetta, indicated that among them were popular names. Under the law, the stars could be facing jail time of up to one year for promoting false products and up to three years for endorsing fake health products that were eaten or ingested. The senior police officer, who has been in charge of the investigation from the beginning, has confirmed that the criminal charges being brought could see some of the stars face the prospect of prison time.
A galaxy of Thai TV, film and internet stars may be facing criminal prosecution for the part they played in the Magic Skin beauty and health products scandal which blew up early last year. On Tuesday, the senior policeman leading the investigation, Deputy National Police Chief Wirachai Songmetta had some bad news for the celebrities. Summonses will be issued next week to some stars who will face charges in relation the Magic Skin scandal which has claimed the lives of at least three Thai women.
Thai police this week announced that TV and internet celebrities would be summoned to face charges in connection with infamous Magic Skin fake cosmetics and healthcare controversy which last year which saw at least three Thai women lose their lives and many others develop damaging side effects.
Charges to be brought next week against a number of Thai stars in Magic Skin scandal
It is reported that the stars will be summoned next week as police get ready to destroy a huge quantity of the fake products on Wednesday. The fake products, counted in the millions, will be incinerated at an industrial, estate at 10 am located in Ayutthaya province. The moves were confirmed by the senior Thai police officer who has led the investigation from the start, Deputy National Police Chief Wirachai Songmetta. He made the announcement on Tuesday.
Shockwaves through Thai entertainment industry
The announcement will send shock waves through Bangkok’s and Thailand’s entertainment and celebrity community. Last year, scores of celebrities were invited by the deputy police chief and the Royal Thai Police to give evidence on the matter. All had taken part in a TV and internet advertising campaign to promote Magic Skin cosmetics range and Lyn health care products. Some of the individual products included what turned out to be highly dangerous and indeed, fatal diet pills. As celebrities gave evidence last year, they were treated as witnesses and many used the ensuing press photo opportunity to apologise to the public and their fans for being involved with the suspect company.
Magic skin case touched by controversy and drama which continues up to today
The ongoing investigation into the Magic Skin saga has been both controversial and dramatic. In October, a Thai policeman was suspended pending an investigation after apparently suggesting a bribe from one of the victims in the investigation to pursue the matter further. At one point, one of the key executives associated with the company behind the operation, abandoned an expensive and luxury car near a massage parlor leaving keys and a number of bank books showing accounts with millions of baht on account.
Thailand money laundering agency seized ฿40 million in assets for victims of the fake products
This followed the involvement of Thailand’s powerful Anti Money Laundering Office which moved quickly to cease assets worth up to ฿40 million including cash and two luxury cars. It is now being reported that these assets will be rendered and made available to victims of the fake products. One man, 31 year old Wuttikorn Mhon-ing, lost a mother and sister to the deadly concoctions that were marketed online and sold in hundreds of retails outlets in Thailand but particularly in Bangkok.
Thai stars claimed last year they they were also duped by Magic Skin and were victims
The deputy national police chief has not revealed yet what charges are being pursued or which celebrity stars will be brought to book. It had been suggested last year that the stars may escape charges after they came forward to apologize profusely when giving evidence to Thai police. Some, particularly those who were quick to come forward, claimed to be victims of the products themselves as they had personally used and tested the products to make the viral videos for which they were paid for.
Things not looking up for Thai TV and internet stars – looking at jail time if convicted on charges
Police General Wirachai did however suggest on Tuesday that that the legal actions could involve jail terms. He explained that the charges became clear when police obtained evidence for Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration body as to the nature of the products that were promoted by the galaxy of TV and internet stars. Some reports suggest that up to 60 stars could be involved in the scandal. We are about to learn who among them will be facing criminal charges.
Some charges could involve 3 years imprisonment
The penalties for advertising false cosmetic or health care products is a fine of ฿100,000 and up to one year in prison. However, for products which can be defined as food, such as the slimming portions, the fine is lower at ฿30,000 but the jail term is higher at up to 3 years imprisonment. Some of the most dangerous products were fake slimming pills under the Magic Skin and Lyn brands.
Diet pills laced with antidepressants illegally
These were found to contain sibutramine hydrochloride, an appetite suppressant as well as fluoxetine which is used in antidepressant drugs such as Prozac and a medicinal substance used to combat obesity known as orlistat. Some of the lethal effects of these pills were sudden loss of consciousness in the body and a shock to the body’s nerve system which could have resulted in death or severe internal damage.
Reports that at least three Thai women died and many more were harmed by Magic Skin and Lyn branded potions promoted in viral online campaign
There are conflicting reports on the number of Thai woman who have died but it is accepted that at least three women died directly as a result of these products while many more were injured or may have had their health damaged.
Magic Skin firm generated a bonanza in cash
The company behind the products was Kalow Rich Inter Co Ltd which generated huge amounts of cash surpluses from the sale of the hugely popular products before the scam was exposed. It is reported that the company simply affixed fake licensing approval numbers attributed to the Thai Food and Drug Administration body onto packaging as the fake products were manufactured illegally. This cash was doled out to Thai TV stars and internet celebrities to keep the money train and cash bonanza going. A string of Thailand’s entertainment stars became the face of a false advertising and PR campaign promoting illegal products that subsequently harmed many Thai women and inflicted death on others. This is even before we consider the fraudulent nature of the products which in itself is also a very serious offence. All the stars were complicit in promoting such products to the public.
Exclusive Swiss ‘Mezzo’ skin cream manufactured at an illegal facility in Bangkok
For instance, a product marketing as a rich and exclusive skin cream manufactured in Switzerland was sold as ‘Mezzo’ which was promoted and endorsed by many Thai actresses in viral videos and TV ads. The product was marketed at a very attractive price of ฿100. However, Thai police revealed that the product cost ฿10 to manufacture at an unlicensed facility in Bangkok and was simply a crude byproduct of the soya bean.
Skin care cream gave some Thai users a rash and pimples which needed a doctor
Police General Weerachai Songmetta last year gave reporters the inside scoop on the fake high quality ‘Swiss’ product called Mezzo: ‘Someone used it and got pimples and rashes all over their face, so they went to the doctor,’ he told reporters. The products were marketed so effectively that they appealed to the desires of millions of Thai women to be as attractive as possible. In Thailand, this often involves skin care and looking slim. The ‘Mezzo’ product was promoted, among others, by Thai film star Pitchanart Sakakorn also known within Thailand as simply ‘May’. May is 38 years old old and has in the past been described by FHM Magazine as one of Thailand’s sexiest women. She recently appeared on a Thai TV Channel 8 drama and romantic series Rak Chan Sawan Jat Hai which was broadcast at weekends.
‘Slim Milk’ was one of the better products – it was simply harmless but utterly fake
Another product known as ‘Slim Milk’ was prompted online by Nontaporn ‘Ying Yae’ Teerawatanasuk who is a well known and highly successful internet blogger in Thailand. Her YouTube channel is famous for fashion and beauty tips. This was the scene for the promotion of the ‘Slim Milk’ where Nontaporn or ‘Ying Yae’ told her viewership and audience about this revolutionary product that could work miracles for those interested in losing weight easily and enjoyably. It turned out to be one of Magic Skin’s better products as it had no noticeable negative side effects such as skin rashes or death. ‘Slim Milk’ was, in fact, powdered milk repackaged by the Magic Skin company and given the appropriate certification and endorsement to make it look like a ‘revolutionary’ health product. ‘This isn’t normal milk. Drink it and you’ll be thin!’ Both statements from Ms Nontaporn’s testimonials turned out to be untrue perhaps luckily for the public.
Milk product promoted by YouTube channel star ‘Ying Yae’ who last year apologised profusely
Ying Yae is still reckoned to be Thailand’s leading internet star with nearly 100 million YouTube views on her video and broadcast site. The stunningly attractive star is 32 year old and began YouTube broadcasting in 2012. She has also made appearances on some popular Thai TV shows. Last year, when called in for questioning with other stars, she was very quick to apologise for her actions and accepted responsibility.
Not known yet if ‘Ying Yae’ or ‘May’ will face charges or punishment along with many other celebrities or stars for promoting a fake products online
The internet star issued sincere apologies to her fans and to the public for endorsing the milk product. She promised to be more thorough at vetting potential products to promote in the future. ‘Although the company also tricked me, I won’t sue them because they will probably receive enough punishment,’ she said at the time. The blogger is not a stranger to controversy after some years ago becoming embroiled in an investigation relating to the promotion of alcoholic beer online.
Thai authorities may adopt a tough line and leave it for the courts to decide the punishment
Next week, we will see if stars like ‘Ying Yae’ will now be facing punishment of their own. It is not known yet which stars will face charges and the nature of the charges. We do not know but it may be that charges will be reserved for stars who promoted the most dangerous products marketed under the Magic Skin and Lyn brand or perhaps Thai authorities will take a tough line and charge anyone who fell short of the law in relation to the matter leaving the courts to decide the appropriate punishment.
What last year turned out to be a minor celebrity event when Thai stars tuned up to apologise and give evidence will this year become more serious for some of the celebrities and stars as criminal charges carrying potential prison terms are now imminent.