The Gem Scam News 2003

Jewellery scam shops a thing of the past, says govt advisor - MCOT, August 15, 2003
While this story is amusing considering all the scam shops that are still operating (we have maps and photos here), it is not so funny to the tourists who are still being cheated (here's a report from yesterday). Anyway, here is what the government says: Jewellery shops which have earned Thailand a bad reputation by preying on tourists and selling goods at exorbitant prices no longer exist, according to a leading government advisor. Speaking after a raid on a Chonburi jewellery shop yesterday, Mr. Chaiphak Siriwat, advisor to the labour minister and chair of the sub-committee on the protection and violation of consumer rights, said that he could now declare with confidence that there were no longer any jewellery shops perpetrating scams on tourists...

New Tourist Police chief & more gem scamming from Leela Lapidary

The Post had an interesting article about the new Tourist Police Chief (he was inspired to become a police officer after cattle rustlers stole the family cattle) and how he is an 'agent of reform' in closing gem scam shops.

The same day we received a new scam report about Leela Lapidary, a shop that has openly scammed since 2002 ("We launched complaints to the Tourist Police, but have not heard anything from them. This unpleasant experience has completely spoiled our holiday. I don’t think we would like to visit Thailand anymore"). We have included Leela's namecard, a photograph of the shop, and even a map so the new police chief can check it out.

Tourist police chief is Thaksin appointee - Bangkok Post, August 11, 2003

...Tourists have long fallen victim to gem scams and Thailand's tourist police have long been accused of taking kickbacks from cheating tour operators. But nothing seems to have been done--nothing, that is, until Thaksin Shinawatra decided he really had to act and named Panya Mamen as his agent of reform.
Pol Maj-Gen Panya, 46, the new head of the tourist police unit, said the prime minister had made a point of stressing he wanted to go after the gem scams which prey on foreign visitors by over-charging them or selling them fake goods.
These scams have been going on for at least 20 years and often involve the victims being taken to what they were told were government-approved outlets. This has only helped to further damage the country's reputation...
Pol Maj-Gen Panya was born to a family of cattle dealers in central Nakhon Sawan's Lat Yao district. His father and his grandfather brought cattle from Mae Sot district in northwestern Tak province for sale in Nakhon Sawan. They were often robbed of their cattle en route and in Lat Yao, and Pol Maj-Gen Panya remembers those thefts well.
"Once robbers tied up my grandfather and took our cattle,'' he said recently. "We hunted them all the way to Salokbat in Kamphaeng Phet, where we clashed and some people were shot dead. This incident made me want to be a policeman."...
While at secondary school, he visited Phitsanulok with friends and entered a boxing tournament at a temple fair. "I was matched against a professional boxer who broke my leg with his kicks," he said.

Meanwhile Leela Lapidary continues to openly cheat tourists - August 11, 2003

From a reader: I am writing to report our recent unfortunate experience of being victims of gem scam in Bangkok.

On 25 July 2003 around 10:30 am, my wife and I arrived at the Grand Palace by taxi. When we were looking for the entrance, we were directed by a man in uniform to a direction which we learned afterwards was the exit. We were then approached by another man who appeared to be very friendly, and told us that the Palace was closed till 12 noon. He recommended us to visit Wat Saket, and also to a nearby jewelry shop called Leela Lapidary where, according to the man, was selling genuine gem stones at a bargain. He asked a tuk tuk driver to take us there at a cost of only 20 Bahts. The driver then took us to a small, quiet Wat opposite Wat Saket, where we were approached by another friendly Thai man who appeared to be a devoted Buddist. Amongst other things, he told us that we should not miss the opportunity to buy some gem stones in Thailand. The tuk tuk driver then sent us to Leela Lapidary (Address: 589 Prasumeru Road, Eat Borwornives, Pranakorn, Bangkok 10200. Tel: 629-4513-16. Fax: 629-4517) where we were lured to buy gem stones. These people repeatedly stressed that this shop was a wholesale shop visited frequently by local Thai people, and that tourists were allowed to buy two tax-free items by the Thai Government. Upon hearing the recommendations of two local friendly Thais on this shop, we lost our alertness and fell in their dirty trick.

We began to realize that we might have fallen in prey of the scam group only on our way back home in the afternoon. We bought the gem stones (one ruby ring and one ruby pendant) at a cost of 31000 Bahts, which were valued as less than 8000 Bahts by the local jewelry shop in Hong Kong. We would like to inform you about the crooked sales tactics of this shop. We launched complaints to the Tourist Police, but have not heard anything from them. This unpleasant experience has completely spoiled our holiday. I don’t think we would like to visit Thailand anymore.

Gem scam refund - November 17, 2003
Followup to this gem scam report: I recently reported my experience of being victim of gem scam in Bangkok on 25 July 2003. I am happy to inform you that with the assistance of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and that of the Tourist Police of Thailand, I was able to receive a full refund from Leela Lapidary Co., Ltd, and I have sent back the jewels to them.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand has handled my case efficiently and helped me a great deal by liasing with the Tourist Police of Thailand which then contacted the jewelry shop. The effort of the TAT in defending Thailand's tourism industry is highly commendable. Although the circumstances which led us to the shop were less than satisfactory, the subsequent experience we had with Leela was extraordinarily satisfying. I was able to receive the refund before sending back the jewels.
Thinking back, my advice to other victims is to contact the local office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand in your country instead of approaching the Tourist Police or the jewelry shop directly by yourself. Lastly, I also wish to thank your website for providing very useful information.

Three positive Leela reports

Update (June 2004): ...I am writing to tell my experience in dealing with Leela Lapidary on 3 May 2004 during our short holiday in Bangkok. We purchased 2 pieces of Ruby rings there at their shop at 589 Prasumeru Road, Pranakorn, Bangkok 10200, at a total price of Thai Baht 276,000. On returning to Malaysia, we checked the stones at a Kuala Lumpur Consultant Gemologist for verification and found that the rubies were of good quality and were good buys. The Manager, Mr. Paul was very kind to call us from Thailand to check if we were satisfied with our purchases. And we are very pleased with our purchases. Therefore, after reading all the negative reports about Leela Lapidary, in our good experiences with them, I and my wife wish to express our point of view.

(November 2003): Another positive report about Leela: Your latest update about Leela, we have noticed that Leela is not like the other stores. For one, it has been open for almost two years (probably more). Secondly, people seem to have a better success rate at getting a refund. Finally, we had once case of a fellow from England who would have made a *profit* selling his gems purchased at Leela, but for the import duties charged by the UK. This store does not appear to be quite like the others and I'm not sure why.

(January 2003): We have received a positive report about Leela: A very well presented shop, many staff and a huge selection of jewelry. We picked out a Thai style ring for my wife which cost 15,500 baht - a reasonable price I thought - I conducted all the business side of things (haggling) in Thai. My wife was most impressed with the business dealing and with the ring. A lovely sapphire On return to Australia we had it valued at a reputable Australian jeweler - It was valued at about 18,000 baht, so in effect we made 10% on our deal. I was thinking of going back there and doing some more shopping in the future. My experience there was pleasant and as it turns out my purchase was a quality item at a price that turned out to be reasonable.

Map to Leela Lapidary

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