Daruma Sushi Owner Flees Thailand After Fraud Claims

The owner of Daruma Sushi Co in Thailand has fled the country after receiving multiple fraud allegations.

On Monday, Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej said an immigration control report had shown that the franchisor, whose identity was not disclosed, had left Thailand for Dubai at 11:00 p.m. on Thursday.

A day before the franchisor’s demise, the popular Japanese buffet restaurant chain also closed its 27 branches in Thailand, citing a need for server upgrades.

Daruma Sushi’s operator fled the country after around 500 people, including e-voucher buyers, suppliers and franchisees, filed fraud complaints with the Office of the Consumer Protection Board (ONCB) and the Consumer Protection Police Division.

The company reportedly caused financial losses that could amount to about 100 million baht, said the victims’ lawyer Ratchaphol Sirisakhon.

According to the allegations, Daruma Sushi had offered e-vouchers for a salmon buffet at a deep 499- to 199-baht discount. Some people bought over 2,000 e-vouchers and resold them at a profit.

OCPB secretary-general Prateep Charoengulpa said: “Offering a promotion with a discount from 499 baht to 199 baht to boost sales of the e-voucher, which is normally sold five to ten per order, is highly suspicious from the beginning. It looks like a scam from the start.”

Using e-vouchers instead of paper vouchers could have been a strategy to make it easier to destroy evidence of fraud, he added.

Additionally, a Daruma Sushi franchisee who requested anonymity said she had invested in the chain’s outlet that opened in Bangkok’s Sai Mai district. The owner allegedly assured her that she only had to pay the franchise fee and wait to receive the restaurant profits on a monthly basis.

After investing 2 million baht in the program, the franchisee was asked to transfer the daily income from the branch to the franchisor before getting the promised 10% of the monthly profit. The restaurant did not make any profits in the first 60 days, but the investor received 100,000 baht from the franchisor each month.

However, Daruma Sushi Co’s owner lost contact with all the franchisees after announcing that he had trouble finding salmon supplies.