Police swooped on Matthew Christensen after he had just returned from a trip to Ko Samui. The American is understood to be well known in Bangkok business and diplomatic circles and presents himself as an international commercial and technology expert, particularly in the regional energy sector.

An American was arrested by Economic Crime Suppression police officers on Friday after an arrest warrant was issued for him last November for operating an illegal investment scheme that led to the loss of over ฿3 million in funds mostly held by foreigners living in Thailand, up until 2014. It is understood that 37-year-old Matthew Christensen has, since then, continued to live in Bangkok where he pursues a high flying lifestyle holding himself out as an expert on international business and an investment expert as well as an activist for the education of the underprivileged. The Economic Crime Suppression Division (ECD) chief, Police Major General Putthidej Boonkrapheu confirmed, on Friday, that the statute of limitations on the case was just about to expire.

Police officers from the Economic Crime Suppression Division (ECD) arrested 37-year-old Matthew Christensen on Friday at a hotel in the Nana area of Bangkok on foot of a warrant issued last November relating to the illegal operation of an investment fund, the subject of a complaint by the Security Exchange Commission in April 2014 and which saw investors lose well over ฿3 million. (Inset) A Malaysian passport in the name of Teh Cheng Huat or Mr James, also linked to the racket, supplied by one of those who were duped.

The Royal Thai Police, on Friday, arrested a 37-year-old American man on foot of a warrant issued by the Bangkok South Criminal Court in November which related to a case filed in respect of an investment business that was the subject of a criminal complaint to the Economic Crime Suppression Division (ECD) by the Security Exchange Commission under the 1992 Securities and Exchange Act.

It is understood that Mr Matthew Christensen who currently holds himself out as an in-house project manager of a highly reputable Bangkok firm of legal practitioners, was involved in what appears to have been a scam investment operation run in Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and China from 2012 to 2014.

How one duped investor described Seandar: a ‘high yield investment programme that never even existed’ 

One duped investor described the scheme ‘as a high yield investment programme that has never even existed’ after his financial return dried up in 2012.

The company at the centre of the investment scheme, Seandar, with various aliases and subsidiary identities was named in the original complaint made to police by the financial exchange and assets regulatory agency in April 2014.

On Friday, Police Major General Putthidej Boonkrapheu said that the statute of limitations on the case was due to expire on the charge within a week prompting Friday’s police operation and the arrest of the US national who was identified by investors after they lost well over ฿3 million in the scheme, as the fund manager in Thailand for Seandar.

Police identified the American holidaying on Ko Samui, let him return to Bangkok before the arrest

Police briefing the media on Friday said that they had identified Mr Christensen travelling in Ko Samui and Surat Thani province last week but waited until he returned to Bangkok to arrest him under the court warrant.

He was detained by police while at a meeting in the foyer of a hotel in the Nana area of the city in the Klong Toey district of Bangkok on Sukhumvit Road.

He faces a charge under Section 289 of the 1992 Act, of operating an investment concern without a licence.

Section 90 of the law specifies that any firm accepting investment in Thailand must be a legally registered private or public company and must obtain a licence from the Minister of Finance on the advice of the Security Exchange Commission.

Faces two to five years in prison under a limited charge of illegally operating an investment scheme

Under Section 289 of the 1992 statute, a conviction by the court for a breach of the law means that the accused faces a fine of ฿200,000 to ฿500,000 and a prison term of between two and five years.

The company, Seandar, was linked with Mr Christenson in Thailand and others throughout Asia as being involved in the trade of derivatives and futures with a special emphasis on the energy sector, precious metals and valuable commodities.

This sort of story is not unusual in Thailand and is similar although perhaps not as serious as the case of charismatic Dutch national Wesley Halbach who was arrested on Valentine’s weekend in 2021 as he attempted to leave Thailand at Suvarnabhumi airport. 

Crowdfunding effort for alleged Dutch fraudster to bail him out of jail and fight fraud charges in court

Mr Walbach was accused and later charged by the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau of orchestrating a Ponzi scheme that left thousands of investors in Thailand out of pocket to the tune of ฿100 million.

American not facing a more serious charge of fraud

In relation to the Seandar swindle, investors were promised a return of 5% on their principle every month.

It is understood it amounted to a Ponzi scheme that ran for some time from 2012 to 2014 until investors realised that they had been duped.

The investigation by police into Mr Christensen and others named by the Security Exchange Commission on April 9th 2014 as Huang Young Lin, Tang Tia Julien and Teh Cheng Huat from Malaysia, concluded only that an offence under the 1992 Securities and Exchange Act had been committed.

Significantly, Mr Christensen is not, at this point, facing a more general and more serious charge of fraud.

It is understood that most of the investors who complained to the Security Exchange Commission in 2014 were foreigners living in Thailand.

Others named in the 2014 complaint including a Malaysian man known to have promoted the fund

At least one of the other people named in the 2014 complaint, a Malaysian man, Mr Teh Cheng Huat, also duped investors in other Asian countries to invest personal and family funds with the same attractive offer. 

One duped investor said he had been recommended to the scheme by a friend and was paid 5% of his principal for six months before the money dried up in 2012.

He was told initially that it was a temporary problem to do with the company merging with a larger concern but then received no further assurances or payments. 

Christensen to investors: hackers cleaned out the fund

In the case of Mr Christensen who is understood to have been the principal operator for the company in Thailand, as far as Thai authorities were concerned, he told investors looking for their financial returns that the company’s computer system had suffered a catastrophic hacker attack leading to all investment funds being wiped out.

The complaint filed by the Security Exchange Commission with the police in April 2014 was lodged by Assistant Secretary Supan Poshyananda.

It followed an investigation by the agency into the complaints it had received from victims of the collapse of the scheme.

The company names and identities used by those behind the bogus investment concern were identified in a warning urging the public and further victims to come forward, as Seandar Inc., Seandar, Seandar Limited, Seandar Inc. Limited, Seandar (Asia) Ltd., Seandar Europe and Seandarfx.

It is understood that those operating the scheme also used the name of reputable financial investment companies operating in Bangkok and Asia which we have not named.

Known in Bangkok business and diplomatic circles

Mr Christensen, in the meantime, since 2014, claims to have worked with a state-sponsored international regional development bank on electrification schemes relating to Myanmar from 2014 to 2016 while thereafter claiming to have co-founded a reputable teaching academy for underprivileged children in the capital which does exist, while also working since 2017, with an international legal practice in Bangkok which also exists.

He is also known within the foreign business community in Bangkok and diplomatic circles.

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It’s a hard station for Thai police and foreigners should understand better the job they do to keep order