Thai restaurant owners sentenced to 723 years in jail over seafood buffet promotion

Two restaurant owners in Thailand have been sentenced to 723 years in prison after defrauding the public with a $3 seafood buffet promotion.

Customers were sold vouchers by Laemgate restaurant owners Apichart Bowornbancharak and Prapassorn Bawornban, entitling them to use their buffet at the unbelievably low price.

Up to 20,000 people purchased 50 million Thai baht ($2.3 million) worth of vouchers, Thai PBS reported.

While initially those who bought the vouchers were able to claim their meals at the restaurant, a long waiting list meant an advance booking of up to several months.

Prosecutors said Bowornbancharak and Bawornban were aware their offer could not be fulfilled.

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“It was impossible to sell such high-quality food as advertised,” they argued in court, adding that the defendants “didn’t have (the) intention to fulfil the conditions as advertised to the public”.

In March, the company – Laemgate Infinite – announced its closure, claiming that it couldn’t get hold of enough seafood to meet the demand, sparking complaints from hundreds of disgruntled customers against the company and its co-owners for fraud.

The pair were arrested on charges including defrauding the public through false messages, and were found guilty on 723 counts on Wednesday and initially each sentenced to 1446 years in prison.

After Bowornbancharak and Bawornban pleaded guilty, their sentences were cut by half to 723 years each.

While it’s not uncommon for those found guilty of fraud in Thailand to be sentenced to long terms in prison, Thai law limits jail time for public fraud to 20 years.

Laemgate Infinite was also fined 1.8m baht ($84,761) and the pair and the company was ordered to refund 2.5m baht ($117,712) in damages to the victims.

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