Police in Thailand are looking for a Russian man who is believed to be behind a foreign exchange scam affecting over one million investors across the South East Asian nation.
The man, who is believed to be an expat living in Thailand, has been named as Alexey Chikalov. The 37-year-old is originally from St. Petersburg.
As part of the scam, investors were told that they could access over 70 different types of assets, such as currency pairs, in the notorious binary options format.
Once the investor had sent over their money for depositing, it then became clear that no such investment was actually available.
The website involved in the scam has been named as SiamOption.com.
The alleged scam is believed to have defrauded around 1.4 million people in total, which makes it a particularly widespread case of alleged fraud with potentially wide-reaching ramifications for the country’s financial products industry.
In total, the scam is believed to have defrauded people out of around THB ฿730m. This equates to around USD $22m or GBP £17.2m.
The search for Chikalov comes after a further 19 people were arrested as part of the investigation into the scam. However, Chikalov is believed by police to be the brains behind the scam, and as a result he is high on the target list.
Of the 19 arrested so far, nine suspected fraudsters were taken into custody following police operations in the Phuket region. One of these raids took place at the Helix Thai Beach Co Ltd building in Chalong.
People from a range of age groups were arrested in this raid. One of the main suspects arrested so far is Thanandorn Thaimai, aged 34, who was described by police as being one of the ringleaders.
Alexey Chikalov, however, remains at large.
Other locations of raids so far include the capital city, Bangkok, and the city of Khon Kaen in the Isan region.
During the Khon Kaen raid, a large amount of technological equipment was recovered by police including 15 mobile phones and nearly 20 laptops.
The police operation in Thailand has been complex and many branches of the law enforcement system have been involved.
The Royal Thai Police Region 4 branch, the Thai armed forces and representatives from the Thai Tourist Police have all been working together under the umbrella of the Action Taskforce for Information Technology Crime Suppression, also known as Tactics.
Thai police officials said efforts were now focused on getting the money back, but also on finding Chikalov.
“This is quite a big network. There are major investors behind this, one of them is a Russian – but he has already fled Phuket,” said Tourist Police Deputy Commander Major General Surachate Hakparn.
“Right now [we] are tracking about ฿130m in the scheme, but there is another ฿600m that we are trying to get back for the victims,” he added.