$23M USD uFun Club laundering ring busted, new processor?
As Thai police continue their investigation into uFun Club, new details have emerged on how uFun investors laundered money out of Thailand.
uFun Club management might have been laundering through a complex network of banks tied to the Pacific, but for their investors it was a far more simple affair.
Get suckers to deposit funds into a bank account, withdraw funds, strap said funds onto your body and… hope to hell you aren’t stopped by border patrol.
Such was the modus operandi of Niphaphorn Lamee, Theerawaj Phatcharasuyayai, Natthawaran Uttamakaew Boon Kiat Choo, who
had opened bank accounts for UFUN members to wire money into. They then allegedly withdrew this money and smuggled it into Malaysia for laundering purposes.
The quartet were arrested a few days ago, trying to smuggle over a half million dollars between Thailand and Malaysia.
Police investigation of the four suspects’ accounts showed that they had allegedly withdrawn and possibly smuggled Bt779 million ($23.3 million USD) over the past year.
The gang allegedly made withdrawals of Bt2 million ($60,000 USD) each several times a day, he said, adding that one day as many as nine withdrawals were made.
uFun Club investors like this were routinely put on pedestals and heralded as success stories in investor marketing campaigns:
The reality though is that they stole millions of dollars from their victims, in exchange for completely worthless uToken Ponzi points.
Suwira added that investigators were contacting banks because they wanted to look into another 16 bank accounts that Choo had allegedly opened to accommodate deposits made by UFUN members.
The extent of the financial losses Choo is responsible for has yet to be determined.
With who knows how many other uFun Club affiliates engaged in the same behavior around the world, this is going to be one hell of a mess to clean up when the time comes.
In related news, it’s also come to light that “UTokens” and “UToken Mutual Fund” were recently added to the Malaysian Securities Commission blacklist:
The public is advised not to make any investment with companies/individuals that are not licensed or approved by the SC.
Offers often come in the guise of seemingly attractive investment opportunities or schemes and may also be camouflaged as direct selling or business opportunities.
When exactly the new listing were made is unclear, but they are in addition to uFun Club itself, which was added last year.
Despite Malaysia emerging as a destination of choice for uFun Club investors to launder millions of dollars through, and the Malaysian Securities Commission blacklisting the scheme, Malaysian authorities have yet to publicly commit to a uFun Club investigation.
Our last bit of uFun Club information today pertains to the setting up of a new payment processor.
For months uFun Club investors have been unable to withdraw funds from the scheme, with those asking why being told to shut up by other investors, lest the truth about the state of uFun Club be openly discussed.
Reports began to surface late last night, suggesting that uFun Club investors in Europe, the US, Australia and other western countries were now able to sign up to new payment processor.
Why uFun Club affiliates in Asia (where the vast majority of uFun investors are based) are unable to use the processor is unclear.
How Asian investors feel about their western counterparts withdrawing their funds and depleting what’s left in uFun’s bank accounts, remains to be seen.
Instructions posted on Facebook, that were promptly deleted only a short time after, indicate that uFun investors must sign up through a uFun Club referral link (so that they can collect referral commissions), after which withdrawals are purportedly possible.
At the time of publication I haven’t seen any confirmation of funds being withdrawn out of uFun.
Meanwhile, wholly aware that financial regulations are the cause of uFun Club losing its previous payment processor services, this time around a veil of secrecy is being urged:
As such which payment processor uFun Club have signed on with is not known. You can bet though that they didn’t use the uFun Club name to sign up, with the whole referral thing sounding like they might have just signed up with a regular account.
In any case, what with these being new accounts, it shouldn’t take long for the money laundering filters that closed the original accounts to kick in again.
When you’re talking millions of dollars being requested from bank accounts all over the world from accounts that obviously don’t have enough funds to pay out, expect regulatory intervention at the payment processor level sooner rather than later.
We’ll keep you posted…
Update 23rd May 2015 – Upon further investigation, police have adjusted the amount Niphaphorn Lamee, Theerawaj Phatcharasuyayai, Natthawaran Uttamakaew Boon Kiat Choo laundered to a staggering 1.8 billion THB ($53.7 million USD).
Police revealed that Bt1.816 billion had been withdrawn from 33 bank accounts and had been smuggled out of Thailand in two ways – Boon Kiat Choo, who was arrested together with the three Thais, smuggled the cash to Malaysia, or a Penang-based man received the money from Boon, after he withdrew the money from a Penang bank.
Police are now also investigating the extent to which local Thai celebrities promoted uFun too:
Chief investigator Pol Lt-General Suwira Songmetta said a singer – Supakij Tangthatsawas – had made an appointment with the police yesterday to explain his alleged links with UFUN as a key endorser, who openly invited the public to invest in UFUN.
The officer also named comedian Theerachart “Ood Pentor” Theerawitthayaku and country singer Khwannapha “Lala” Ruengsri as such endorsers who would be later summoned for questioning.
Also Athiwat Soonpan (uFun’s fake general) got a mention, suggesting he might have returned to Thailand:
Suwira said the Malaysian police were willing to probe a suspected link between a key UFUN Thailand suspect on the run – Maj-General Athiwat Sunpan – after he was found taking a photo with the son of a high-ranking Malaysian politician.
Last we heard Soonpan had fled to the US back in April. There’s a warrant out for his arrest so this might be additional investigation to ascertain his links to Mohd Nazifuddin, son of the current Malaysian Prime Minister.