New Scam in Thailand - Bangkok Airport

Be careful at the Airport. I would say DO NOT buy anything at the KING POWER duty free stores inside the airport in Bangkok.
In fact I wouldn’t even enter any store. Just go to your gate and wait.
This is for Taiwanese and foreigners alike:

[quote]British couple fights Bangkok airport extortionists
Two tourists were held by an airport gang until they paid up £8,000

A British couple who were falsely accused of shoplifting in Bangkok airport and were forced to pay £8,000 in bribes to secure their release are to take legal action for compensation.

They were the victims of an extortion racket that has ensnared other foreign travellers at the airport, which handles most of the 800,000 British visitors to Thailand every year.

Stephen Ingram, 49, and Xi Lin, 45, both technology professionals from Cambridge, were detained by security guards as they went to board Qantas flight QF1 to London on the night of Saturday, April 25.

They were accused of taking a Givenchy wallet worth £121 from a King Power duty-free shop and were handed over to the police. An official release order from the local Thai prosecutor’s office subsequently conceded there was no evidence against them.

They were freed five days later after a frightening ordeal in which they said they were threatened and held against their will at a cheap motel on the airport perimeter until they had handed over the money. [/quote]

Read the rest here: … 590584.ece

Also here is more information about this scam and this covers an Irish woman accused and awaiting a trial:

[quote]£10,000 for eye shadow at King Power?- The Bangkok airport scam

Police volunteer admitted that 160 tourists were scammed in April including six Britons.

This is a blog only
She sat there clutching a plastic bag containing a lipstick along with a till receipt for 570 baht. Sian, from Kilkenny in Ireland saw her life ahead in a Bangkok jail and was clearly dumbstruck.
“I never intended to steal anything. I paid for the lipstick and had also picked up some eyeliner worth about 900 Thai baht and taken it to the till. This is all a terrible mistake. I paid by credit card. I thought I had paid for both times”
Sian faces a year in jail……unless.[/quote]


Nation May 2
Letters to the Editor

Ref: Are police involved in airport shoplifting scam? Letters, April 30

I echo the voice of J Nirmal Kumar’s letter. Recently a young student from an Asian nation was in transit to the US via Bangkok, and at the airport’s King Power duty-free shop he was accused of shoplifting. He was then handed over to the police, who later made him sign documents in Thai and took him to the police station.

Later one South Asian man claiming to be a Thai police officer demanded Bt300,000 from him and even made a long-distance phone call to his parents demanding the money. The guy claiming to be a Thai policeman later turned out to be a volunteer appointed by the police to help the tourist. Anyway, the student’s family sent money, and he had to pay a huge amount for his release. After a few days in police custody, his passport was stamped with a few words in Thai.

His embassy was also helpless and could do nothing. It seems as if there is nexus of duty-free staff, police and the rescue or tourist volunteers who work in unison to trap innocent travellers. The majority of the cases seem to be South Asians, followed by Chinese.

The problem starts when duty-free staff immediately hand the accused person over to the police, and some volunteers working inside the airport also play a role in trapping travellers by speaking English and appearing to be helpful.

As far as we know, there are more than two or three such incidents every day, and each of these goes unnoticed. Most of the victims are from Asian countries, so the police just do not care.

This racket must be busted. The mafia of duty-free staff, police and so-called tourist volunteers needs to be handled immediately.

JOHN BIGS[/quote] … try2710759

If anyone can write Chinese post it on Chinese forum pages and spread the word…

Thailand is a poor, lawless, corrupt third world country which is increasingly nationalistic and inward looking. With recent riots and jostling for political power, you can never be assured of ‘safety’ as there is no authority that can categorically assure that safety, even in a place such as an international airport. You are not ‘safe’ there, no matter how worldly and well travelled you think you are. No it’s not right but it’s not surprising, or noteworthy. Using your first world money to enjoy a higher standard of living on a holiday in a poorer country is not without risk and people don’t understand that the world is not a holiday camp run like Switzerland where you have recourse when you become a target because of your wealth and racial background.

Most people figure that out on their first trip out of Europa/whatever other Xanadu-sur-mer from whence they hail, but not these genii.

If anyone can write Chinese post it on Chinese forum pages and spread the word…[/quote]

Sympathy for ripped-off PRC travelers from this poster equals or is less than zero. Thai vendors are probably targeting them for scamming due to exasperation in time-wasting and hostile bargaining practices.

I would see it as karmic justice, really.

I meant Taiwanese websites.

I was half asleep when I posted the first post.

Took a while but finally found out how the scam possibly works (from the reader comments in the Times article). Why it’s not stated clearly is beyond me.

King Power has published the surveillance camera video:

Doesn’t look like a scam from that video. Looks like the Chinese bint swiped the wallet and from the accompanying letter, looks like they thought they knew exactly what they were doing.
Couple of petty shoplifters is all.

Whether they stole the thing or not (wallet wasn’t found on them), there is a scam going on involving payments for freedom whether guilty or not.

The Police are involved in the alleged extortion.

They are supposed to be doing their job (some would say extortion is their job of course)
The Police should be there to apprehend and build a case against criminals, and not to assume guilt, bully and intimidate, then try to extort money from the alleged shoplifting culprits.

The couple has an official letter from the Thai Police stating their complete innocence in these alleged acts.

Now the BBC are reporting this:

Tourists warned of Thailand airport scam

Bangkok’s showcase new international airport is no stranger to controversy.

Built between 2002 and 2006, under the governments of then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the opening date was repeatedly delayed.

It has been dogged by allegations of corruption, as well as criticism of the design and poor quality of construction.

Then, at the end of last year, the airport was shut down for a week after being occupied by anti-government protesters.

Now new allegations have been made that a number of passengers are being detained every month in the duty free area on suspicion of shoplifting, and then held by the police until they pay large sums of money to buy their freedom.

That is what happened to Stephen Ingram and Xi Lin, two IT experts from Cambridge, as they were about to board their flight to London on the night of 25 April this year.

They had been browsing in the duty free shop at the airport, and were later approached by security guards, who twice asked to search their bags.

They were told a wallet had gone missing, and that Ms Lin had been seen on a security camera taking it out of the shop.

The company that owns the duty free shop, King Power, has since put the CCTV video on its website, which does appear to show her putting something in her bag. However the security guards found no wallet on either of them.

Despite that, they were both taken from the departure gate, back through immigration, and held in an airport police office. That is when their ordeal started to become frightening.


“We were questioned in separate rooms,” Mr Ingram said. “We felt really intimidated. They went through our bags and demanded that we tell them where the wallet was.”

The two were then put in what Mr Ingram describes as a “hot, humid, smelly cell with graffiti and blood on the walls”.

Mr Ingram managed to phone a Foreign Office helpline he found in a travel guide, and was told someone in the Bangkok embassy would try to help them.

The next morning the two were given an interpreter, a Sri Lankan national called Tony, who works part-time for the police.

They were taken by Tony to meet the local police commander - but, says Mr Ingram, for three hours all they discussed was how much money they would have to pay to get out.

They were told the charge was very serious. If they did not pay, they would be transferred to the infamous Bangkok Hilton prison, and would have to wait two months for their case to be processed.

Mr Ingram says they wanted £7,500 ($12,250) - for that the police would try to get him back to the UK in time for his mother’s funeral on 28 April.

But he could not arrange to get that much money transferred in time.

‘Zig-zag’ scheme

Tony then took them to an ATM machine at the police station, and told Ms Lin to withdraw as much as she could from her own account - £600 - and Mr Ingram then withdrew the equivalent of £3,400 from his account.

This was apparently handed over to the police as “bail”, and they were both made to sign a number of papers.

Later they were allowed to move to a squalid hotel within the airport perimeter, but their passports were held and they were warned not to leave or try to contact a lawyer or their embassy.

“I will be watching you,” Tony told them, adding that they would have to stay there until the £7,500 was transferred into Tony’s account.

On the Monday they managed to sneak out and get a taxi to Bangkok, and met an official at the British Embassy.

She gave the name of a Thai lawyer, and, says Mr Ingram, told them they were being subjected to a classic Thai scam called the “zig-zag”.

Their lawyer urged them to expose Tony - but also warned them that if they fought the case it could take months, and they risked a long prison sentence.

After five days the money was transferred to Tony’s account, and they were allowed to leave.

Mr Ingram had missed his mother’s funeral, but at least they were given a court document stating that there was insufficient evidence against them, and no charge.

“It was a harrowing, stressful experience,” he said.

The couple say they now want to take legal action to recover their money.

‘Typical’ scam

The BBC has spoken to Tony and the regional police commander, Colonel Teeradej Phanuphan.

They both say Tony was merely helping the couple with translation, and raising bail to keep them out of prison.

Tony says about half the £7,500 was for bail, while the rest were “fees” for the bail, for his work, and for a lawyer he says he consulted on their behalf.

In theory, he says, they could try to get the bail portion refunded.

Colonel Teeradej says he will investigate any possible irregularities in their treatment. But he said any arrangement between the couple and Tony was a private affair, which did not involve the police.

Letters of complaint to the papers here in Thailand make it clear that passengers are regularly detained at the airport for alleged shoplifting, and then made to pay middlemen to win their freedom.

The Danish Embassy says one of its nationals was recently subjected to a very similar scam, and earlier this month an Irish scientist managed to flee Thailand with her husband and one year-old son after being arrested at the airport and accused of stealing an eyeliner worth around £17.

Tony told the BBC that so far this year he has “helped” about 150 foreigners in trouble with the police. He says sometimes he does it for no charge.

The British Embassy has also warned passengers at Bangkok Airport to take care not to move items around in the duty free shopping area before paying for them, as this could result in arrest and imprisonment. [/quote]

Took a while but finally found out how the scam possibly works (from the reader comments in the Times article). Why it’s not stated clearly is beyond me.[/quote]

Here’s one way to avoid it: don’t take a bag from the store. Take the item and receipt and put it in your own carry-on bag, opening it on the counter with the zipped side toward yourself. It would be rather difficult for them to stuff something in illicitly.

If one must take a bag to manage a larger item (e.g. alcohol), inspect it yourself so that there is nothing “extra” in the bag. Don’t touch the item (i.e. don’t leave fingerprints on it); instead, empty the bag onto the counter. It would probably be best not to make a comment and just leave.

I’ve had my own headache with Thailand, irritating but not as serious: My flight on day 30 was scheduled to leave at 11:40PM. The quota-hungry petty bureaucrats said, “You’ll still be in our airspace after 12AM! You have to pay the fine for overstaying!” They held me for more than half an hour, and I barely made it to the gate to get on the flight.

I told them at the gate (politely, to avoid further trouble) that I wouldn’t be going back to their country ever again for that reason. If the pricks had not been scrounging for every foreign dollar they could extort for government coffers, I might have gone back several times. The Thais were, on average, the nicest people I’ve met in any country I’ve been to.

Only the tuktuk drivers pissed me off. I had rented a scooter, and more than once, I’d park within sight of the tuktuks and they would harass me, walking into my path and asking if I wanted a ride. They’re nothing but thieves.

They nicest duty free section of any airport I’ve seen? Kansai, but oooooohhh, the prices… But the sake with gold leaf in it was worth the money, the best I’ve ever had (the only sake I’ve had that was drinkable at room temperature).