THE LURE of a 1,600-euro (US$2,347) Thailand tour package – which turned out to be a con deal – was just too hard to resist for 1,000 would-be Spanish holidaymakers.
The police have issued an international arrest warrant for the owner of travel agency Siente Tailandia (Feel Thailand), Pedro Marti, who has apparently absconded with the money and closed shop.
According to reports, Marti operated from Tarragona, south of Barcelona, and is rumoured to be married to a Thai national.
The regional information technology crimes unit in Catalonia estimated that as much as 700,000 euros could have been fleeced from victims of the fraud, and reported that complaints about the company continue to pour in daily.
The main attraction for people booking with Siente Tailandia was a 13-night circuit tour of Thailand for 1,600 euros, or 700 euros, for those who arranged their own flights. The offer included stays at four-star hotels, various excursions, a Spanish-speaking guide and basic insurance.
At least two tours did take place, according to Spanish police.
One of the victims, Silvia Stinga, said she and her boyfriend were planning a trip incorporating Thailand and Vietnam in August. Bank transfers to make final payments for the holiday were set for mid-May, but they never heard from Marti again and nobody answered the contact number.
“Marti didn’t create any lack of confidence because he was very attentive and the price was not too cheap,” said Stinga, adding that the difference between Marti and other tour operators was that he offered “more personalized attention”.
Among those who reported the company to police was a couple on honeymoon, who were due to meet Marti at the airport in Bangkok. When they could not contact Marti, they went to the hotel where they were supposed to have rooms reserved, but discovered that there had been no bookings made.