Daruma Sushi Owner Arrested at Suvarnabhumi for Alleged Public Fraud

On Wednesday morning, local police arrested Daruma Sushi restaurant chain’s franchisor at Suvarnabhumi airport for alleged public fraud.

The man, identified as Metha Chalingsuk, had left the country after almost 500 fraud complaints were filed against him for causing large losses to franchisees, suppliers and customers through a fraudulent discount vouchers sale and all the local outlets’ closure.

Mr. Metha was charged with public fraud and computer crimes, CPPD Commander Pol Maj Gen Anant Nanasombat said.

Daruma Sushi Thailand’s owner was arrested upon arriving on a flight from Taiwan and taken to the Consumer Protection Police Division (CPPD), where he was questioned by Central Investigation Bureau’s Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej.

According to official reports, Mr. Metha denied the charges, arguing that the business had gone broke by the lack of cash flow caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The franchisor left the country on a flight to Dubai earlier this week. A day later, on June 17, Daruma Sushi’s 27 Thai branches closed their doors, citing the need to upgrade the company’s server.

However, Mr. Metha had accepted investments worth millions of baht from franchisees who never saw the promised profits. The restaurant chain had also announced via Facebook that it would sell e-vouchers with 499 to 199 baht discounts for a Japanese salmon buffet, attracting many buyers.

According to Mr. Metha, the company sold the vouchers in an attempt to maintain its cash flow, as the Covid-19 pandemic had caused a liquidity loss. Daruma Sushi could not deal with the pressure to pay off the accumulated debt and eventually went bankrupt.

The restaurant owner reportedly fled to the United States after traveling to Dubai on June 16 but was pressured to return to Thailand.

Citing money trail reports, Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said there were thousands of victims in the case. The combined damage amounted to over 100 million baht, he added.

Meanwhile, a source close to the business said Mr. Metha’s restaurants were loss-ridden. Non-payment reportedly led his default led vendors to stop supplying the chain’s branches.

The insider also revealed that Daruma Sushi’s account had transactions valued at about 303.45 million baht, including 27.07 million baht purchased through an app for vouchers sold to 33,002 shoppers.

Daruma Sushi franchisees also suffered damage, losing at least 17.50 million baht combined.