A security expert has revealed that 58 year old Francesco Galdelli and his wife, 45 year old Vanya Goffi, were a highly regarded couple in Pattaya giving to good causes such as a foundation helping Thai children with HIV. The ฿40 million jackpot earned from the fake George Clooney fashion fraud helped the couple live a dream lifestyle in ‘Sin City’ since 2014 even after Galdelli’s arrest at a hotel in Pattaya in 2014 on the same charges and his later escape from custody after bribing prison guards.
A high profile police operation on Saturday in Banglamung, just outside Pattaya, saw the arrest of two Italian fraudsters known at the ‘Italian Bonnie and Clyde’ who were detained in an elaborate police operation using a drone and advanced electronic surveillance. This was, in fact, the second time that Thai police had arrested 58 year old Francesco Galdelli who had been brought before a court in Pattaya in 2014 on the same charges. This relates to a ฿40 million fraud scheme which saw Italian investors rush to hand over money for a fake fashion label associated with the US movie star, George Clooney. Following his arrest in 2014, the Italian is reported to have bribed Thai prison officers and then, quite amazingly, opted not to move out of Thailand or even Pattaya choosing instead to live on the outskirts of the city. It is understood that the arrest this week follows an interpol warrant and a tip off from Italian authorities that the fraudsters had never, in fact, left Thailand.
As news flashed around the world on Sunday of the arrest in Banglamung, just outside Pattaya, on Saturday, of an Italian fraudster and his companion, we can reveal that it was not the first time that the Italian man had been arrested by Thai police in Thailand.
Italian fraudster was arrested by Thai police in 2014 but escaped after bribing prison officials
In 2014, then 53 year old Francesco Galdelli was arrested at the Dusit Thai Hotel in Pattaya and later brought before the Thai courts. It followed an extradition request from Italy from where Galdelli had fled in 2012 after being detected by Italian police for his fraudulent activities. These include selling fake Rolex watches online and host of other scams. However the big case against him was a 2010 fraud scheme involving US and Hollywood superstar George Clooney. In 2010, the Italian and his partner had devised a fraudulent scheme that lured enthusiastic investors into a fake clothing enterprise linked with the US superstar. The couple had later fled Italy in order to keep one step head of Italian justice.
Italian couple did not flee Thailand or Pattaya, they just moved to the suburbs
However, Galdelli escaped custody in Thailand five years ago. An internal Thai police investigation concluded that the Italian fraudster had bribed his prison guards by handing over ฿20,000 to allow him to go free and cover his tracks. He did not go as far as one might have expected, but simply moved to the outskirts of the city where had been arrested. Banglamung is an area of Chonburi province just to the south of Pattaya, a city known for its nightlife and notoriety as ‘sin city’ where foreign visitors come to meet thousands of women who work in prostitution presented as a fun, nightlife experience. It also has a growing reputation as gangsters paradise with its yachting marinas, seashore and reputation for decadence.
Elaborate police operation to arrest the Italian pair at the Banglamung villa in Chonburi
On Saturday last, Thai police in an elaborate operation which took no chances, surrounded the luxury villa where now 58 year old Francesco Galdelli had been living the life of wealthy man with his 45 year old companion, Vanya Goffi. Curiously, although the couple are known in the security and international law enforcement world as the ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ of Italy, it is not clear what the couple’s relationship is. Perhaps by design.
Drone and advanced electronic surveillance used
The operation involved the use of a drone and advanced electronic surveillance. Given their prior experience with Galdelli before, the Thai police were, this time, taking no chances. The couple had been followed to the location.
When police finally swooped on the property, they appear to have caught Galdelli and his partner unawares. The Italian was given some time to prepare a bag before his was taken into custody. The Italian couple are already facing jail time in Italy. An Italian court sentenced them both to eight years and four months in prison in connection with the Clooney fashion label fraud.
‘They stayed in Thailand and never left’
Thai police have already revealed that Galdelli has already owned up to the crime. ‘During interrogation, Francesco confessed to claiming to be George Clooney and opening a clothes business to trick people into sending money,’ declared a statement issued by Thailand’s elite Crime Suppression Police. ‘They stayed in Thailand and never left,’ said the police. It was perhaps the last place that they would be looked for following Galdelli’s audacious 2014 escape from custody in the city of Pattaya.
Italian police alerted Thailand to the whereabouts of the couple, still living in Pattaya
On Sunday, Crime Suppression Division Commander, Jiraphob Puridet confirmed the arrest of the Italian couple. He said that the arrests were on foot of interpol arrest warrants issued at Italy’s behest. The couple were arrested at their Banglamung home after Italian authorities had alerted the Thai police to the fact that the fraudsters were still living in Thailand. The couple had fled Italy after hey were charged and convicted on charges relating to the George Clooney fashion line. The Hollywood star himself had also sued them.
Clooney fashion label fraud was the couple’s big score
The basis for the couple’s wealth and luxury lifestyle is clear. In 2010, they hit the jackpot with the fraudulent scheme to lure investors into paying money into the proposed clothes range using the American star, George Clooney’s name. Clooney has long standing links with Italy where he purchased a luxurious villa on Lake Como in 2002. Since then, it has become a venue for regular meeting of stars, royalty and world leaders.
George Clooney gave evidence against the Italian couple in 2010 at a court hearing in Milan
Clooney gave evidence to a Italian court, sitting in Milan, in 2010 which identified Mr Galdelli and his companion, 45 year old, Vanya Goffi as the key players with a third accomplice is leveraging his name to promote a fake fashion label. It is reported that eager investors lodged ฿40 million into the scheme. This provided the funds for the Italian couple to retire to Thailand and live a dream lifestyle of their own.
Well thought of among the Pattaya elite as generous supporters of good causes
This weekend, following their dramatic arrest in Banglamung in Chonburi, an international security expert provided background for the press in the AFP News Agency report. Andrea Vitalone said: ‘He could be seen as a sort of Robin Hood.’ He was referring to the new image which the Galdelli adopted in Pattaya. The couple kept a low profile but developed influential friendships. He revealed that Galdelli was well known in the area for being a generous foreigner including making substantial donations to assist Thai children with HIV.
The couple are currently being detained by Immigration Police in Pattaya who are processing extradition paperwork against them.