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Diasporian News of Friday, 25 February 2005

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Busted In Thailand

Fake money used in Malaysia leads to arrest of three in Bangkok

BANGKOK, Thailand - Joseph Suekam, 40, of Ghana and two African men, including a professional soccer player, have pleaded guilty to counterfeiting U.S. dollars, later selling them to undercover Thai police, a police officer said Friday.

Police launched an investigation leading to the suspects after they allegedly exchanged about 2 million baht (US$52,000; euro39,000) worth of fake U.S. bank notes with a victim who learned the money were counterfeit when he tried to use it in neighbouring Malaysia.

The oher suspects were identified as Jerry Prince, 23, of Nigeria; Elvis Tumbi, 32, of Cameroon.

Prince was a professional soccer player who had been on the Telephone Organisation of Thailand's team since early 2004, said Police Maj. Gen. Phanya Manan.

His visa was also expired and he is charged with being in the country illegally, an earlier police statement said.

About a dozen African footballers are playing for several clubs in Thailand, and Phayna said their activities are being closely monitored since hundreds of African nationals have been arrested in recent years for drugs trafficking and money counterfeiting.

The trio were arrested at Bangkok's international airport Wednesday as they were handing over the fake dollars to plainclothes policemen posing as customers, the general said.

The police seized US$10,000 in fake bills.

The three later pleaded guilty to counterfeiting and using Thailand as a springboard to sell counterfeit dollars in the region, Phanya said.

They face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.