Details of the case were outlined by Police Major General Charin Kopata of the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau Division 5 on Monday. The Dutchman was arrested under a warrant from the Phuket Provincial Court and is currently being questioned by police. Officers report up to 1,000 complaints filed so far and are appealing for more victims to come forward.
Police arrested 37-year-old Dutch national Wesley Halbach over the weekend as he attempted to flee Thailand with his family following a huge fraud perpetrated on up to ten thousand people across the kingdom in what has been described by police as a massive Ponzi scheme. Officers with the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau earlier established that the fraudster had moved up to ฿100 million offshore to 4 banks and 44 separate accounts leaving panicked investors in his scheme, high and dry.
A 37-year-old Dutchman and his family were intercepted by police over the weekend as they were about to board a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok back to the Netherlands. The foreign man was held for questioning on allegations of fraud under a court warrant issued earlier in Phuket.
Police have named him officially as Wesley Anton Dirkjan Halbach who lived in Phuket and ran an online shopping mall scam using LINE and a range of Chinese registered internet domains trading under the name SPM Shopping Mall.
Halbach understood to have been the main mover behind the scheme that netted him ฿100 million
It is understood that Mr Halbach was the main mover behind the scheme which encouraged users, after they invested money, to click on a range of internet properties to boost their SEO rankings and later rewarded those involved with payments such as ฿500.
People became engrossed in the activity and were told that if they invested more money, they would be promoted to different levels and could even become team coordinators or administrators with the service bringing them even more lucrative returns.
It was a classic Ponzi scheme which saw some people investing up to ฿200,000.
Provincial Court arrest warrant issued
A Phuket Provincial Court order for the arrest of Mr Halbach was issued over last weekend for questioning by police in connection with the scam.
This followed an investigation by the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau, where on Monday, Police Major General Charin Kopata the Chief of Division 5 of the agency, told reporters that up to ฿100 million had gone missing from up to 10,000 investors.
Funds moved offshore to as many as 44 bank accounts with 4 different banks by Mr Halbach say police
Police investigations suggest that the funds procured by the Dutchman were moved offshore to as many as 44 different bank accounts with 4 banks outside Thailand.
This has prompted police agencies to treat the crime as a transnational one and they are reaching out to international police forces for assistance.
This may also lead to Mr Halbach facing money laundering charges as well as extensive and numerous counts of fraud.
Police have confirmed that he was the administrator of the site and coordinated its activities through a LINE account and network.
Alarm raised in Pattaya
Dozens of people in Pattaya, last week, began to raise the alarm over the scam.
Already, 200 complaints have been filed by people from the resort city in addition to complaints pouring in from Phuket and Ko Samui.
The scheme came tumbling down in recent weeks when payments due to people who had invested and were working on the network, failed to get their payments wired to them.
Those pursuing what was due to them found they could not contact the SPM Shopping Mall managed by Mr Halbach.
Police are appealing to more victims to come forward as they detail the loss caused so far
Police officers with the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau have described the scam as a classic Ponzi scheme and are appealing to those who have been victims to come forward and file a complaint against the European man.
Following the briefing, Kanchai Khlaikhleung of the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau gave some idea of the scale of the fraud and the devastation it has caused.
‘At this stage, about 1,000 people have identified themselves as victims. Many of them came with tears on their faces, as they had spent all of their savings on this investment. Most of the victims are living in Phuket and on Ko Samui. Some of them understood well how the scheme worked, some just wanted to try it, some had no idea that it was a Ponzi scheme.’ she said. ‘The man, his wife and child were about to flee the country. If they could get out of the country, about 100 million baht would have gone with them, as they had already transferred it to the banks in a neighbouring country.’
Immigration Bureau officers helped track Halbach after he flew from Phuket to catch his flight
She gave an insight into how police had followed Mr Halbach and his family this weekend after he boarded a flight in Phuket heading for Bangkok to catch the KLM flight to the Netherlands from Suvarnabhumi Airport where he was nabbed by investigating police and subsequently returned to Phuket for questioning in connection with the fraud.
‘We cooperated with Immigration officers to keep an eye on them after they took a flight from Phuket to Bangkok.’
The 37-year-old, wearing a black T-shirt and white pants, was taken aside to an interview room at the airport by officers and placed under arrest.
He was then taken back to Phuket for questioning by officers working on the case and is expected to be charged.