Senior officers with the Food and Drug Administration in Thailand and police had already raided a warehouse run by Paddy the Room in Bangkok in December 2020 and found soiled surgical gloves in the process of being scrubbed and dyed by migrant labour. Deputy Secretary-general of the Food and Drug Administration, Supattra Boonserm, described the activities of the Thai firm as fraudulent and said that at least some of the second-hand gloves had been imported from China and Indonesia and were then packaged in fake boxes using a brand name.
A US businessman, referred to by the Head of the Central Investigation Bureau, Police Lieutenant General Jiraphop Phuridech, this week, in connection with an explosive CNN news report on the alleged fraudulent export of medical materials to the United States including surgical gloves by a Thai firm based in Bangkok, has vowed to pursue justice in the case. Louis William Ziskin was arrested by armed Thai police on May 15th after he was suspected of being involved in the kidnapping of a senior executive linked to the firm by a hired gang. Mr Ziskin’s LA based firm, Air Queen, had lost $2.7 million after shelling out the money to a notorious Thai export concern identified as Paddy the Room.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha has tasked the Minister of Commerce, Deputy Prime Minister, Jurin Laksanawisit, to commence an investigation into the alleged bogus export of counterfeit medical gloves to the United States after the top TV news channel, CNN, published an exposé on the issue last Monday.
Authorities in Thailand are concerned that the allegations aired in the US and internationally, may damage the credibility of Thai exports in the future.
The United States was Thailand’s largest export market in 2020 accounting for a massive $38.6 billion in external sales.
Top police officer links CNN TV report with American businessman subject to a high profile arrest in May
On Wednesday, the Chief of the Central Investigation Bureau and one of Thailand’s leading police officers, Police Lieutenant General Jiraphop Phuridech, told the press that he believes the origin of this story was linked to the arrest of 52-year-old US businessman Louis William Ziskin and three others in May this year by heavily armed Thai police after a Taiwanese businessman was abducted from a restaurant in Bangkok on Sukhumvit Soi 36 on March 28th and briefly held for ransom by a hired team allegedly organised by an Israeli private detective named as Michael Greenberg who later was reported as missing.
The kidnap plot and subsequent charges levelled by the Royal Thai Police also involved a senior police officer, at the time, named as 59-year-old Police Colonel Kritsanaporn Thapthawee who was reportedly transferred to a desk job and later charged with Mr Ziskin and others in relation to the kidnapping.
CNN characterised the coordinated kidnapping of a Taiwanese businessman at a Bangkok restaurant by a team of six men as a ‘confrontation’
On Monday’s news splash, the CNN report characterised the abduction and kidnapping of Mr Wen Yu Chung in March this year, as staff and waiters looked on at an upmarket restaurant, as a ‘confrontation’.
However, video footage later released from the incident backs up the claims made later to police by the Taiwanese man.
It showed two men, one with a balaclava, manhandling the middle-aged businessman while there were three other men, two of them seated, who appeared to cordon off the operation at strategic points.
The businessman was later taken to another location where he claimed he was both physically and mentally abused while calls were made to his employer and family demanding $3 million for his safe return.
Police chief refers to the context of the kidnapping
On Wednesday, Police Lieutenant General Jiraphob, while he suggested that the CNN story was linked with the abduction and may have followed a tip-off by Mr Ziskin to the media outlet, did not deny that the context of the kidnapping involved credible claims by Mr Ziskin of a fraud perpetrated on him by a Thai firm known as Paddy the Room.
The CNN exposé linked the firm to the export of soiled and substandard nitrile PPE gloves to unsuspecting clients in the United States due to a worldwide shortage of the product which is normally manufactured in Southeast Asia.
Mr Ziskin saw dollar signs if he could supply the demand for surgical gloves in the United States
The market for the product is suffering a long term shortage of supply because of finite supplies of rubber needed to manufacture the items.
Quoted by CNN this week, Mr Ziskin explained why he was attracted to the business: ‘We saw dollar signs. We also saw we had legitimate medical customers who were literally begging for this stuff.’
Police aware of the loss of $2.7 million by the US man but say these were two different criminal cases
On Wednesday, Police Lieutenant General Jiraphop emphasised that police in Thailand were looking at the affair as two separate criminal cases but had yet to receive a criminal complaint in relation to the loss allegedly suffered by Mr Ziskin when he ordered the gloves from the Bangkok based supplier through his Los Angeles firm Air Queen.
He had earlier received what later turned out to be a forged report on the quality of the goods being dispatched to his warehouse claiming the medical gloves matched the highest standards of hygiene and medical sterility.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
After paying $2.7 million, the shipped consignment was found to consist of soiled and used product.
This resulted in Mr Ziskin writing to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection force making them aware of the issue.
Many US firms duped by Paddy the Room
He was not alone.
Another businessman in Miami, Florida who had ordered a $2 million consignment of nitrile gloves, also from Paddy the Room and who was featured in the CNN news report, Mr Tarek Kirschen, was forced to refund monies to customers who were outraged by what arrived from Thailand.
‘These were reused gloves. They were washed, recycled,’ Mr Tarek explained. ‘Some of them were dirty. Some of them had bloodstains. Some of them had markers on them with dates from two years ago. I couldn’t believe my eyes.’
$2 million paid for soiled gloves sent to landfill
He was later forced to destroy the consignment as a health hazard at a landfill.
This was also in February this year.
The US media outlet also spoke to a third firm, US Liberty LLC, where the President of the company, Mr Firas Jarrar, told reporters that he had received a similar consignment from Vietnam which were ‘gloves with holes, with stains, ripped, and in different shades and colours.’
Police in Bangkok are ready to pursue any complaint lodged by Mr Ziskin if he returns to Thailand
In Bangkok, on Wednesday, Police Lieutenant General Jiraphop told reporters that the Royal Thai Police would pursue any complaint Mr Ziskin had concerning his $2.7 million purchase of gloves from Paddy the Room but no such report by the American had been made.
He said if Mr Ziskin wanted to return to Thailand, he could make such a complaint.
This also raises the question of whether a company representative of the US firm can file a complaint on its behalf.
Dramatic, high-profile arrest of American by heavily armed police on May 15th at his hotel in Bangkok
It is understood that following a dramatic police operation on May 15th when Crime Suppression Division (CSD) officers, supported by armed units, stormed his hotel room and arrested the American businessman together with a 42-year-old ex-marine named as Jeremy Hughes Manchester, that Mr Ziskin and others involved in the case were granted bail subject to an order that the American wear an ankle bracelet and did not leave the kingdom.
This week, when interviewed by CNN in Los Angeles, Mr Ziskin explained that he was subsequently freed to leave the jurisdiction as charges in the case had not been followed up by evidence against him.
Investigation into Paddy the Room ongoing since last year by Royal Thai Police and Thai FDA – 2020 raids
At the same time, it does appear that an investigation by the Thai Food and Drug Administration into Paddy the Room has been ongoing since at least late last year when raids were made by both Thai FDA officials and members of the Royal Thai Police on a warehouse operated by the controversial firm.
On one raid, overseen by Deputy Secretary-general of the Food and Drug Administration, Supattra Boonserm, police found gloves in the process of being scrubbed by migrant workers and dyes being applied to make it look like they were new, premium quality nitrile gloves.
Police also found boxes bearing the trademark SkyMed which they immediately confirmed were fake and designed to fool unsuspecting buyers.
‘In simple terms, it’s fraud’ says top Thai official
Ms Supattra explained that many of the used gloves were imported from China and Indonesia and reprocessed in this manner.
‘It may be too slow to dry them hanging up, so they would put them into a dryer, literally a laundry dryer,’ she told the media. ‘In simple terms, it’s fraud. Under this outbreak situation, the demand is enormous both from hospitals and the general public. The volume of illegal gloves we have found is enormous.
In the meantime, US investigators with the Department of Homeland Security, the US Customs and Border Protection force and the US Food and Drug Administration have begun to investigate what is happening and are trying to track down those responsible.
Not just Thailand but other Southeast Asian countries in what is a huge scam involving billions of dollars
An expert on the subject who has developed a following on the social media site Linked In among potential purchasers of PPE materials in the United States, Mr Douglas Stein, explained that the trade in illicit PPE wear being imported from Southeast Asia potentially involves billions of dollars.
‘It just became this dark, dark underground where fear meets greed,’ he claimed this week.
The CNN report, published on Monday, claimed that millions of surgical gloves and Paddy the Room product were still reaching America up to July this year when an order was made by authorities to intercept shipments to the US from the Thai firm.
US authorities are now taking action
In a statement to CNN, the US Food and Drug Administration said that it could not comment on specific cases under investigation but did state: ‘a number of steps to find and stop those selling unapproved products by leveraging our experience investigating, examining and reviewing medical products, both at the border and within domestic commerce.’
In the meantime, Mr Ziskin, a highly successful American businessman who has had a chequered past, is still pursuing what he sees as a fraud perpetrated on him and his company by the Thai firm concerned.
Chequered history of US businessman who founded a technology firm after spending twelve years in prison
The American, whose representative earlier in the summer pointed out to the Thai Examiner that his client had never been a US marine, contrary to initial reports, spent nearly twelve years in prison after he was sentenced to 30 years behind bars in 2000 for orchestrating one of the biggest ecstasy drug networks in America at that time which involved imported drugs from Europe and reexporting other product.
American denies the crime but has a colourful history in the United States as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, drug dealer and prison inmate
He later went on to found a technology firm called Drop-In which initially received backing from Lloyds of London and made him an extremely wealthy man.
He then devoted his considerable energy and talent to both motivational speaking and helping younger people from disadvantaged backgrounds turn their lives around.
Ziskin says he’s shining a light on what is happening so that the United States can finally take action
In July, as part of its ongoing investigation, the US Department of Homeland Security seized 70,000 boxes from Mr Ziskin’s warehouse in Los Angeles as part of what now appears to be a high priority probe taking place in both the US and Thailand.
Mr Ziskin is determined that he will have the final say on the matter.
‘I’m going to see this through to the very end,’ he declared this week. ‘Am I going to get my money back for the company? Most likely not. Are we bringing a light to this to where hopefully, the United States can get up off the bench and stop it? Yeah. If that’s what justice is, then that’s what my hope is.’