Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Board of Investment’

15th July 2019

Issues surrounding the decline in tourism have been of increasing concern in Thailand over the past months. Many factors seem to be at play when discussing the issue of the tourism downturn in Thailand. For instance, fallout from the US-China Trade War may be playing an integral role in the declining number of tourists coming to Thailand since the slowing of the Chinese economy has knock-on effects regionally. Specifically, the decreased purchasing power of Chinese consumers is causing a decrease in demand for travel packages to Thailand.

The China-specific issues notwithstanding, many have pointed to the increasing strength of the Thai baht as a cause of concern. Budget conscious travelers to Thailand are being put off by the relative increase in cost to travel to the Kingdom as a result of the appreciating local currency.

Finally, some of the decreasing tourist numbers could be attributed to the increasingly stringent immigration policies being placed upon ostensible tourists. In the past, there were a number of individuals who opted to live in Thailand utilizing tourist visas or 30 day stamps. These individuals who have been tabulated as “tourists” in the immigration records, but the reality was that these people were using such visas to live in the Kingdom. New enforcement measures have been put in place and new policies promulgated which are designed to discourage such behavior. For example, where once overstay in Thailand was considered a rather trivial offense which resulted in a relatively nominal fine, especially for those who overstayed their visa for a prolonged period. Now overstay can result in deportation and a prolonged registration on the Thailand Blacklist. Meanwhile, Immigration officers at border checkpoints have been turning away prospective entrants to Thailand if they are using multiple 30 day stamps in one year or are attempting to remain for a prolonged period of time in the Kingdom on single entry or multiple entry tourist visas.

Notwithstanding the above issues, Thailand remains one of the best jurisdictions in Southeast Asia to do business. Proof of the increased interest in Thailand is the fact that Foreign Direct Investment in Thailand has increased by over 200% in 2018. This increase in FDI may be attributed to the fact that the benefits which can be accorded to companies looking to do business in Thailand under the Board of Investment (BOI) are substantial and can even include prolonged tax holidays. Meanwhile, Thailand boasts the best infrastructure in the region and Bangkok has seen tremendous real estate growth as well as infrastructural improvement including, but not limited to, the expansion of the rail system within the city. High speed rail systems are likely to be brought online in coming years as well. Clearly, although Thailand is seeing some decline in terms of tourism it is increasingly apparent that business travelers and investors are choosing the Kingdom to conduct business.

It should be noted that along with all of the above developments, Thailand remains arguably the best jurisdiction for Americans doing business in the region as Americans can enjoy the benefits of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity. This agreement allows Americans citizens and American companies “national treatment” when doing business in the Kingdom thereby permitting 100% ownership of American enterprises operating in Thailand. This coupled with Thailand’s infrastructure and business environment makes Thailand an especially welcoming destination for American investment.

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19th August 2018

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Department of Special Investigations in Thailand have undertaken a raid on various offices of those reportedly engaged in the maintenance of corporate structures utilized for the sole purpose of allowing foreigners to enjoy use of Thai real estate. The text of the announcement from DSI was originally published in Thai. We have undertaken a translation of the announcement in order to provide clarity for what could be considered an important issue for expats in Thailand. The translation is below:

DSI in collaboration with the Institute of Communication Science and the Board of Investment are currently investigating a group of Law Offices in the Phuket, Suratthani and Bangkok area that seem engaged in ‘camouflaged’ corporate structures acting as nominees on behalf of foreign shareholders.

As per government policy to actively pursue foreign investors using Thai nominee companies to own land in order to protect the nation’s interests.  On the 15th of August 2018, Police Colonel Paisit Wongsmuang, the head of DSI; and Police Major Suriya Singhokmol, his second in command; in collaboration with The Institute of Communication Science and the Board of Investment obtained a warrant to search 4 offices as follows:

  1. The first team led by Piya Watnawarangul (special agent investigating civil embezzlement) searched the premises of the Office’s Phuket Branch located at 393/4-5 Moo 1 Soi Bantao 1 Srisuntorn Rd., Chengtalay Subdistrict Thalang District, Phuket.  The premises appeared to be the work place of the Thai Nominees and a suspected location for falsifying documents for the purpose of camouflaging nominee activities.
  2. The second team led by Worapoj Maihom, searched the premises of the Office’s accounting branch located at 123/9 Moo 5 Chengtalay Subdistrict Thlang District, Phuket.  The office appeared to provide accounting services for the Nominee companies.
  3. The third team led by Jakrapop Klinhom searched the premises of the firm’s Samui branch office located at 17/10 Moo 1 Taweeratpakdee Borpud Sub district, Koh Samu District, Suratthani .  The premises were apparently the work place of the Thai Nominees and a suspected location for falsifying documents for the purpose of camouflaging nominee activities.
  4. The fourth team led by Mr. Taweewat Surasit, searched the premises of the Bangkok Branch located at Rajanakarn Building, 3 Floor AA Sathorn Rd, Yannawa Subdistrict, Sathorn District Bangkok, and the work place of the Foreign Managing Directors.

The search yielded copies of documentation, computer data and hardware that will be used as evidence in court proceedings.

Additional information found at each premises showed that the foreign investors seemingly purchased over 80 plots of real estate, consisting of land, vacation homes and houses.

Sources also reveal that the firms seem engaged in nominee activities that allow a large number of foreign investors to buy and sell land in Southern Thailand such as Surat Thani, Pangna, Phuket and Krabi with such activities grossing over 2 billion baht per year.

The investigation has found that the group has used Thai employees to incorporate Thai companies.  These Thai Corporate Entities in turn are used to hold shares in other companies for the purpose of allowing foreign investors to buy land.  These activities are in violation of the foreign business act (1999).  Using Nominees to hold land on behalf of foreign persons or entities has a negative impact on national interests and the real estate industry.  DSI will continue to actively pursue and shutdown such activities.

Please note that the above translation should not be viewed as a definitive interpretation of the underlying announcement and is solely for informational purposes. It should also be noted that the matter has yet to be fully settled via adjudication and the final outcome of the case remains to be seen.

The reader of this posting should note that Thai authorities are becoming increasingly efficient and sophisticated in their law enforcement endeavors. This is clear from the increasing number of immigration raids and the heightened scrutiny of officers throughout the Thai civil bureaucracy on issues ranging from revenue assessment to traffic ordinances. Clearly, it is a time to be mindful not only of the formalities inherent in the letter of relevant laws, but the policy considerations which embody the spirit of those laws as well.

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