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Malaysian company a 'transnational crime syndicate'

A Malaysian company with deep business interests in southern Thailand has been accused of being a "transnational crime syndicate" and having caused the kingdom to suffer financial losses worth "billions of Baht" (1 billion Baht = RM125 million).

The accusation against the company, which faces a similar probe by Malaysian authorities, was levelled by a joint committee set up by the Thai government to investigate the firm during its latest meeting days ago.

"The representative from the Attorney-General’s Office concluded (during the meeting) that all government agencies involved in the investigation focus on the main accusation (against the Malaysian company) of it being a transnational crime syndicate.

"All agencies involved in the investigation have been told to speed up their investigation," said a high-ranking source who declined to reveal his identity due to the sensitivity of information he shared with Bernama.

The committee, which was only set up several months ago, comprises representatives from the Attorney-General’s Office, Department of Special Investigation, Narcotics Suppression Bureau, Office of Narcotics Control Board and Anti-Money Laundering Office.

Other government agencies in the committee include the Revenue Department, Department of Business Development and Thailand’s central bank, the Bank of Thailand.

It is the first time that Thailand has set up a powerful multi-agency committee to investigate a particular company, underlining the severity of the allegation, said the source.

According to him, the company's illogical business operations, which "defy any business sense" because it continues to pour in money to expand the business despite posting significant financial losses each year, had aroused the suspicion of the authorities.

"It (the Malaysian company and its subsidiaries) posted losses almost every year and did not pay taxes but, at the same time, undertook aggressive expansion in its investment, it does not really make any business sense," according to him.

That suspicion caused the Thai authorities to spring into action, which led to the setting up of a multi-agency committee as the investigation into the Malaysian company expanded and deepened, he said.

Malaysia has also set up a task force to probe the company, with the team consisting of the National Revenue Recovery Enforcement Team, Attorney-General's Chambers, Royal Customs and Excise Department, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Inland Revenue Board, Bank Negara Malaysia, Companies Commission of Malaysia, Immigration Department and the police. The task force is spearheaded by the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry.

According to the ministry in May, the authorities froze 91 bank accounts with eight local banks amounting to RM177 million which were linked to the company.

The company is also being investigated by Bank Negara under the Financial Services Act 2013 as well as the Companies Commission of Malaysia.

According to the high-ranking source, the company began its investment in southern Thailand, especially Hatyai and Danok, in 2013, and had also ventured to Bangkok and northern Thailand.

Since setting foot in Thailand four years ago, the company went on an aggressive expansion and today has at least 20 subsidiaries in the kingdom operating various kind of businesses, from hotel, entertainment outlets, theme parks, money exchange to restaurants.

- Bernama