Twenty-two firms operating in two tourism provinces – Prachuap Khiri Khan, where Huahin is located, and Chon Buri, where Pattaya is located – have been alleged to use nominees for their foreign shareholders, the the Bangkok Post reports.
Many of these companies have representatives of foreigners on their boards or as shareholders who usually come from accounting, consultancy or law companies, according to an investigation by the ministry’s Business Development Department.
The probe is being conducted with the Department of Special Investigation and involves random checks on 27,093 firms with foreign shareholdings of not more than 49% as allowed by Thai law.
Some companies are in the service sector covering tourism, property, housing and car rental, construction, restaurants and bars.
The probe has initially covered the five tourism provinces of Phuket, Surat Thani, Krabi, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Chon Buri. It is part of a drive to build effective safeguards before Thailand opens markets wider for Asean members.
A Business Development Department official said the investigation closely looked at any companies that had accountants or lawyers as shareholders or as board members.
After checking 706 firms since mid-2012, 22 companies were found to have nominee shareholders for foreigners.
Deputy Commerce Minister Nattawut Saikuar said these wrongdoers will face fines ranging from 100,000 baht to 1 million baht and a jail term of not more than three years under the Foreign Business Act, or both.
“They are being given time to correct the shareholding structure or face a daily fine of 10,000 to 50,000 baht,” he said.
Mr Nattawut said the investigation will be extended to cover provinces across the country once the process is completed in the first five provinces this month.
The probe will also extend to rice millers and rice farms, which are protected professions under the foreign business law, after several complaints.
The DSI and the Commerce Ministry have so far found no foreigners having shares or operating in these rice businesses, Mr Nattawut said.
Source: The Bangkok Post