The government has ordered relevant agencies to expedite the amendment of the anti-money laundering law following reports of scammers using mule accounts to commit financial crimes.
Deputy Government Spokesperson Traisuree Taisaranakul said the instructions from Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha came after recent reports of fraudulent financial activities through mule accounts. The Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) has proposed an anti-money laundering law amendment bill that classifies any involvement in opening mule accounts as a felony.
What are mule accounts?
There are two types of mule accounts:
Accounts are created by criminals using stolen or synthetic identities. This is where criminals use legitimate or a blend of legitimate and fake customer information to commit new account fraud, opening new accounts for illegal purposes that they have complete control over and that cannot be traced back to them. They can use these to transfer their funds between them, to ‘clean’ the money and/or to raise credit scores on the accounts before withdrawing up to the credit limits with no intention of paying the money back to the financial institution.
Accounts belonging to legitimate customers have allowed criminals to use their accounts for illegitimate reasons.
Often, these are unsuspecting, ordinary people who have been seduced by the prospect of a ‘job’ which promises to pay well for short hours, all from the comfort of their own home. The roles often have seemingly legitimate titles such as ‘money processing agent’.
All they have to do is provide their account details. Money then comes into their account and they follow instructions to send this money on to another account – often for a cut of the sum.
Several agencies, including the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society and the Royal Thai Police, have meanwhile set up a task force to monitor and suppress online scams. The task force is working with international organizations to obtain more information on scammers and seek to establish cooperation with neighbouring nations.
The Bank of Thailand and the Thai Bankers’ Association will send out warning messages to users before making any transfers and enhance the alertness of banking staff on the potential opening of illicit accounts.
The banks are also working to improve the filing system on the confiscation of accounts involved in online crimes.
Money laundering is the process of changing large amounts of money obtained from crimes, such as drug trafficking, into origination from a legitimate source. It is a crime in many jurisdictions with varying definitions. It is a key operation of organized crime and the underground economy.
The Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) is Thailand’s “key agency responsible for enforcement of the anti-money laundering and the counter-terrorism financing law.
AMLO is an independent governmental agency. It has the status of a department functioning independently and neutrally under the supervision of the minister of justice but is not part of the justice ministry