Thailand’s Securities & Exchange Commission has filed its second criminal complaint in two days against a British national for operating a securities business in the country without a licence, in what some observers say could be the beginning of a Thai crackdown on as many as 11 allegedly unregulated, expat-focused advisory businesses.
The 11 businesses marketed the funds of LM Investment Management, an Australian fund house that collapsed in 2013, leaving, among others, some 60 members of a Thailand-based investors’ group out-of-pocket by what they claim is as much as US$13.4m.
The British national named in the SEC’s most recent criminal complaint, which was dated 10 Feb, was Neil Arthur Robbirt. The complaint also names his Bangkok company, of which he is the chief executive, Global Consultant Co, Ltd.
According to Robbirt’s LinkedIn profile, he has been with Global Consultants Ltd – as it is referred to here – for more than 22 years.
In an emailed response to International Investment on Thursday, Robbirt said the SEC had been aware of the activities of his and his company’s activities “over the years” but that until recently, it had said nothing about the need for a licence.
“[And] it is our understanding that there is not currently an applicable licence available to cover our business activities,” he added.
“Global is one of many international IFAs with a presence in Thailand operating under the same premise.
“More recently certain events have brought the licensing issue to light once again. As a result, Global will continue engaging with the SEC and intends to co-operate in full with any guidance that is received.”
The company name on Robbirt’s email is Global Investments, and it notes that the firm is an authorised agent of such companies as Standard Bank, Nedbank Private Wealth, Investec Bank – Guernsey and Lloyds TSB International.
Global Investments also, it says, represents Generali International. RL360, Friends Provident International, Royal Skandia, Zurich International “and numerous offshore fund management companies”.
‘Solicited to make investments’
In a statement on its website dated 10 Feb, the Thai SEC said it had filed the complaint against Robbirt and his company with the Economic Crime Suppression Division of the Royal Thai Police (ECD Police), after having been informed by foreign investors residing in Thailand that they had “solicited them to make investments based on the company’s advice and management, in order to gain tax benefits and long-term returns”.
“The foreign investors proceeded accordingly, and suffered loss as a result,” the statement adds.
“In addition, Global Consultant publicly advertised that the company had a team of experienced and expert investment consultants to handle suitable portfolios for investors through different company names, such as Global Investments Far East Ltd and Global Investments International Ltd.
“Neither Global Consultant nor Mr. Robbirt was licensed to operate securities business pursuant to the Securities and Exchange Act of 1992. Their actions therefore were in violation of Section 90, and liable to penalties under Section 289, which are imprisonment for a term of two to five years, and a fine [of] from THB200,000 to THB500,000, plus a daily fine of THB10,000 baht until the period of violation ends.”
The statement goes on to urge anyone who might themselves to have been adversely affected by the business to get in touch with the ECD Police, and concludes with a recommendation that investors in Thailand “consult the License Check page at www.sec.or.th to verify the status of securities business operators and individuals before using their services or making investment decisions”.
As reported, the Thai SEC on Monday filed a criminal complaint against Richard Dunston Malpass, another British national, on grounds that he also had been operating a securities business in Thailand without a licence.
A former Malpass client who currently lives in Thailand told International Investment that it was thought that the Thai SEC is most likely responding to a group complaint it’s received from investors who lost savings in the LM Investment Management collapse.