815,000-plus mule bank accounts closed in May, says DES minister


The technology crime suppression panel also makes several arrests in its second phase of operations in May

The Prevention and Suppression of Technology Crimes (PSTC) Committee has closed more than 815,000 mule accounts in the second phase of its operation, the Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Prasert Chanthararuangthong said.

He was speaking to reporters on Wednesday in his capacity as the panel’s chairman.

Prasert said that in the second phase of the operation from May 1 to 31, a total of 815,873 mule accounts were closed – 344,079 by the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO), 300,000 by banks themselves and 171,794 at the request of the Anti-Online Scam Operation Centre (AOC).

The PSTC had been set up by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin under the 2023 Royal Decree on Measures for Prevention of Technology Crimes in early March. The order was in response to rampant cybercrime cases and a surge in deception cases by call-centre gangs.

815,000-plus mule bank accounts closed in May, says DES minister

Prasert, who is ex-officio chair of PSTC, convened a meeting on Wednesday to check the progress of its operations. The committee comprises representatives from the Royal Thai Police, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), the Bank of Thailand (BOT), the Thai Bankers’ Association, AMLO, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), Securities and Exchange Commission, and Telecommunications Association of Thailand.

At the meeting, the participants were informed of the progress made in several operations during the second phase in May, including the closure of mule bank accounts used by conmen to receive money from their prey.

The committee was informed that the central bank has told commercial banks to use the principles of customer due diligence (COD) before allowing individuals to open new bank accounts. COD aims to ensure account holders do not come from any of the risk groups and has been put in place since May 30.

Commercial banks will also widen a crackdown on mule bank accounts by using the names of closed mule accounts’ owners as a basis, the panel was told.
Apart from closing mule accounts, the PSTC operation in May also included:

 ·       Arresting nine suspects and freezing assets worth 70 million baht in a crackdown on BanHuay.com online gambling website
·        Arresting 12 suspects working for a Cambodia-based call centre
·         Arresting 25 suspects for deceiving victims into investing a total of 350 million baht in crypto coins and freezing their assets worth 125 million baht

The committee also learned that the authorities have blocked access to 15,758 fraudulent social media links and websites during May, and has shut down 6,459 gambling websites during the period.

As for the operation of terminating SIM cards linked to mule mobile banking accounts, 42,298 mobile phone numbers that had made more than 100 calls per day were suspended from service as of May 26. Only 372 of the owners have come forward to identify themselves with mobile phone operators.

The authorities have shortlisted 5 million mobile phone numbers used by people who own more than 100 SIM cards each. So far, 2.6 million of these numbers have been clarified, while 2.3 million of the remaining numbers have been suspended after the owners failed to verify themselves within the February 14 deadline.

815,000-plus mule bank accounts closed in May, says DES minister

The authorities have set a July 13 deadline for owners of more than six but less than 100 SIM cards to come forward to explain their need for so many numbers. Some 4 million numbers fall under this category, and the owners of about a million of them have come forward as of now.

In another development, Prasert said Prof Wisit Wisitsora-At, permanent secretary for DES Ministry, has signed a memorandum of understanding for the AOC to coordinate with the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau, DSI, AMLO, BOT and NBTC in operations to suppress and prevent cybercrimes.