Thai Mikimoto Export Co. Ltd. IV
January 22, 2002
From a letter we received:
To whom it may concern,
At first I really want to say a big thank you to this brave Internet journal for having the courage to speak out the truth about gem scams happening in Thailand. I will have some very interesting news to share with victims of this incredible Gem Scam organization.
My wife and I arrived (name withheld) on the 5th Jan., 2002 in Bangkok to enjoy our honeymoon which kind of ended on the 6th Jan., 2002. We were on the way to the Grand Palace and a Professor and his school class (about 10 girls in uniform!) approached us. We were told that the Palace is closed because of Buddhist reasons and we should not take any picture of people (to make sure that there is no picture of him or somebody else important!). He was wondering were we come from and so on. He suggested to visit some Wats and markets, and mentioned on the side that it might be interesting to also drop by at so-called "Export Promotion". Interestingly, he marked all locations for us on a map including the Export Promotion center. (Astonishingly, we did not end up at this center, but at another one which is close by!).
Of course, there was immediately a tuk-tuk available which took us to a nice Wat where (oh what a surprise) a Thai student started to talk to us very smoothly. At first, he introduced himself and mentioned his trips in Europe by which he easily gained some trust. (I am from Austria and he had been travelling around there. He could pronounce the names of cities without making any mistake, and had even so called Austrian friends. One of them had just arrived some days ago in Bangkok, and was staying in the same hotel as us.)
After about 20 minutes just making small talk the business took off and Export Promotion was introduced. He explained us that usually the Export Promotion is only open for poor Thai peopled so that they also have a chance to travel around. He mentioned some real jewelry shops in Switzerland (we are doing our PhDs there) and how much money he had made there. Basically, here the brain washing session began.
Some minutes later, we were on the way to get our passports from the hotel. (Of course, the tuk-tuk had been waiting!) At this point there was still some doubt, especially about legal issues, but at least we were curious and wanted to see and get more information at the Export center.
We were warmly welcomed at the THAI MIKIMOTO EXPORT center. We were once again informed how it works, given address list of shops in Switzerland which really exist, shown certificates, and more and more introduced into the Export Promotion principles (which are all LIES!).
We started to discuss which Jewelry would be interesting and seriously considered buying Jewelry for my wife. Maybe we could sell one or two pieces, but I wanted something nice for my wife on our honeymoon. I was stupid enough to mention that I have a unlimited Golden Mastercard.
But we could not decide and it was a lot of money. We started to discuss about the whole thing and were then offered a nice tea which we drank (as stupid as we have been!). From there on we did not ask any questions any more!!!
We were convinced to buy two sets for total 337.360 Baht (basically all my savings!!!). At first we bought 780g of Gold in another Jewelry shop!!! I even had to call Mastercard twice to allow the transfer of such a big amount of money. My wife got even so high, that she started shopping in the other Jewelry shop. Fortunately, the stuff was to heavy for her neck! (Please note that my wife usually discusses with me whether we should spend 500 Baht for something or whether we should not try to look whether we can get it cheaper somewhere else. She is born and trained to save money. For a moment I was wondering what was wrong with her, but as I did not really do anything after the tea consumption, I also did not confront her!)
Back at THAI MIKIMOTO everything went extremely fast. The Jewelry was sent off by EMS to our address in Switzerland. We did not get the EMS slip (and we did not even bother to ask about it!). The Gold was gone as fast as it came. We were brought out there as fast as possible, invited for dinner, went for Thai massage and then even taken to Patong where we saw all this young women selling their bodies (another big problem of Thailand!!).
At Patong my mind slowly started working again and my wife also came slowly back to planet earth. We insisted to be brought to our hotel, where we realized very fast that this was a gem scam.
Thanks to the LONELY PLANET book about Thailand we could reconstruct what had happened to us. Moreover, I checked whether there was really the Austrian friend staying at our hotel, which of course was not the case!
We left the hotel as soon as possible in the morning. We went to the real Export Promotion center, where we were informed that THAI MIKIMOTO is on the black list. We were sent to Mr. Manat Soiploy at the Ministry of Commerce (Department of Internal Trade), where we meet a US couple that had been betrayed by another Export center. We did not trust this guy. He expected us to just send him the jewelry and he will work out a deal. But he said that there is NO CHANCE TO GET ALL THE MONEY BACK! We can get around 70%.
Very disappointed, we went to the Canadian embassy (my wife is Canadian) which basically did not tell us something new. Once again Mr. Manat Soiploy was mentioned. The embassy closed and we were left on the street.
Thanks to God our Saviour, we know a Thai family which since that is helping and supporting us as good as possible. With their help and very good friends at Switzerland, we managed to get our so-called Jewelry back in our hands.
On Saturday, 19th Jan., 2002 (my birthday - what irony!) my wife and I went back to the shop to negotiate about money refund. This time we were not warmly welcomed and were brought into another building (so that we did not disturb the ongoing business) where the lawyer/manager (he called himself this way!) was already waiting for us. Mr. Sompong (the manager - whereas I have to mention here that I have asked several times for his identification - even together with the Tourist Police and our lawyer - I was never shown any. This was accepted by the Police! Foreigners have to give a copy of their passports, but a Thai person does not need to identify him or herself! VERY STRANGE!) wanted to initially pay 70% back in 2 month. I argued with him for 3 hours and was finally told that he would give me 100% if he could, but he does not have the money (oh, poor Mr. Sompong!). He offered a contract for full money refund, but earliest 90 days! Knowing that he has the money I did not accept. He had been lying all the time and did not have any ID. So, we did not accept and after further arguing we were "politely" told by 6-7 men to leave the shop. By the way, I once started threatening him a little bit by promising to take pictures, he only replied that "I am still young ...". (Very interesting! I personally do not believe that they do not get violent. Everybody says that Thai people are not violent. I would be very careful about that. At the police I was told secretly that the shops can send someone to give people a beating!)
So, we did not return alone some hours later, but with our Thai friends. Surprisingly, we were welcomed in the "real" shop and people were friendly. This time the excuse was, that they can not pay because only the big boss can allow such big payments, and he is not around. We were told to come back on Monday, and we will get all our money back. (While we were there, they "took care" of another poor Tourist. They do not stop there business, irrespectively who is around.)
So our hopes were high on Monday (21st Jan, 2002) as we went to the tourist police. Our Thai friends had organized a lawyer! The Tourist Police had promised to help as good as possible! We had excellent and honest translators! We could only win.
My dear reader, we were so wrong. We paid 337,360 Baht. Yesterday (Monday) we got 150,000 Baht in cash and a written promise that we will get another 100,000 Baht on Monday 28th Jan., 2002. If we do not get the money, Mr. Sompong will go to jail. Personally, I will only believe that when it really happens. Mr.Sompong seems to be Mr.Untouchable!
Basically, this was our story. Not completely finished yet. We will see.
BUT MUCH MORE IMPORTANT I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS:
1) SAY NO NO AND NO TO EVERYTHING IN THAILAND! (on the street!)
2) FORGET "WESTERN JUSTICE" IN THAILAND! (Even when you go for a law case. The maximum that you can get back is all your money MINUS 50,000 Baht lawyer costs!!! You can not charge for your ruined holiday, lawyer costs, and additional expenses in Thailand - at least not as a foreigner!!!)
3) ACCEPT 70-80% REFUND!
4) ACCEPT YOUR MONEY LOSS!
5) WARN AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE ABOUT GEM SCAMS IN THAILAND! (They happen now in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket!!)
6) DO NOT EVEN TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS STANDING BEHIND ALL THAT SHOPS!! (Trust me, I have tried and now I am living in fear. There seem to be very big people involved. I think that the police knows more than they tell. Just about THAI MIKIMOTO the have several hundred of pages! I have believed in justice and finally have realized that nobody is really safe in Thailand. I hope that you can publish my story on the net. I think it is very important to inform people that there is no way of getting all money back. And that they should leave it like that. I am now very scared. Luckily, I do not know names. I just know stories. I could tell you another 7 stories of other victims which I have meet at the Tourist Police. They have no problem to combine the drugging game with gem scams when they smell big money!)
7) DO NOT APPLY WESTERN THINKING! (I know that at home the story would end very different, but always remember you are far away from at home. You disappear here, you are gone forever. Just check the "missing" board at the tourist police!)
8) LEAVE THEM ALONE, THEN THEY WILL LEAVE YOU ALONE! (Unless you have very, very, very, very good connections to institutions e.g. secret service (which kind of nobody has!!), that can really protect you, do not provoke them by any kinds of means! There is a reason why this Thai family is basically hiding us in Thailand! Trust me. It is no worth it! They get your money. They are happy and you are save. Please, please leave it like that!)
I will provide you as soon as possible some documents concerning our case!
Thanks again for having the courage to publish about it.