A Russian tourist on holiday with his family has been arrested for bringing counterfeit foreign currency into Thailand and distributing counterfeit currency after he gave play money imitation “souvenir dollars” to bar staff allegedly as a joke.
Russian Embassy Consular Head Vladimir Pronin said the arrest was conducted in Rayong, a predominantly industrial province with a few key resort locations, such as Koh Samet.
Mr Pronin did not give a date for the arrest, but added that the tourist has been released on bail while the investigation and court process continues.
“The Russian national is charged according to two articles of the Criminal Code of Thailand – bringing counterfeit foreign currency into the country and distributing counterfeit currency,” Russian news service TASS quoted Mr Pronin as saying.
TASS did not specify the amount of bail or name the tourist, but the Yekaterinburg edition of the national newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda and other Russian news outlets named the man as Vadim Vedenyapin, from Yekaterinburg.
Russian media reports highlighted a post on Instagram, attributed as posted by Mr Vedenyapin’s wife Ekaterina, on Sept 30 saying,
“Urgent! We are in Thailand. On holidays with kids. One of us got into trouble. Made a lame joke. Bought toy bucks [US dollars] for kids to play and gave to locals as a present. Turned out to be no great souvenir from Rasha [from Russia]. Here everything is treated seriously. In Thailand they failed to get the joke. The court hearing is tomorrow. The laws in Thailand are tough. Very tough.”
Later the woman stressed that her husband had no intention to use the play money for payment.
“How is it possible to throw a man into jail for such a nonsense?! These banknotes have indications that they a ‘souvenir products’ in two places on them,” Komsomolskaya Pravda quotes Ekaterina as saying.
Photographs of the banknotes posted alongside the story show warnings printed on the banknotes saying the notes are “souvenir products” and “are not a means of payment”, though the warnings are not printed large and not highlighted in a different colour on the notes.
Photos of the notes published by Komsomolskaya Pravda were credited as “From a personal archive”, the same credit as under the picture of Vadim Vedenyapin taken from Ekaterina’s Instagram.
RT news services reported that bail for Mr Vedenyapin was initially set at B150,000, but increased later.
RT also published details from a source named only as “Aleksandr”, presented in the story as a friend of Mr Vedenyapin who witnessed the events which resulted in the arrest and criminal charges.
According to Aleksandr, Mr Vedenyapin was drinking in a bar and paying for his drinks with Thai baht.
At some point staff at the venue noticed Mr Vedenyapin’s “souvenir” banknotes, mistook them for genuine American banknotes and “started charming him and offering extras”.
Finally, Mr Vedenyapin decided to give the staff several notes “as souvenirs”, said the report.
Having later discovered that the money was not real, the staff offered Mr Vedenyapin to settle the misunderstanding by paying each of them B1,000, or they would call the police.
Mr Vedenyapin rejected the offer.
Section 240 of the Criminal Code (Counterfeiting) and Section 243 (Bringing Items to be Counterfeit) present identical punishment of 10 up to 20 years in prison or a fine of B20,000 to B40,000 or both.
Section 247 adds that in case of money issued by a foreign Government the offender shall be liable to one half of the punishment as provided in a corresponding section.
It is not clear which exact section was meant under “distributing counterfeit currency”