She carries Dior bags and sells those by Hermes and Chanel, as well as watches by Rolex and Patek Philippe. But she’s on the run; a luxury goods fraudster, now known to have operated in more than one city
It is hard not to say that Siriwipa Pansuk (ศิริวิภา พันสุข) is a talented young woman. If reports now slowly emerging in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand are to be believed, the 27-year-old has a knack for social media and, through her online-retail skills, scamming. So good she had been that the Thai national and her one-year-younger Fujian-born Singaporean husband Pi Jiapeng (皮佳鹏) was allegedly able to make some 180 shoppers or so here part with S$32 million upfront for luxury goods that were never delivered. Both were under police investigation and their passports were impounded, but they managed to flee the Lion City via the Causeway, through the Tuas Checkpoint, concealed in a container of a lorry, driven by a Malaysian man, now arrested. The Singapore Police Force and the Interpol have issued warrants for the arrest of these two individuals (Ms Pansuk became the 13th Thai on the Interpol list). They are believed to have arrived in Thailand, but their whereabouts is not known.
As soon as their wanted status was announced, Thai social media was abuzz with rumours and speculations about their criminal compatriot. It is now known that victims in Bangkok have reached out to their Singaporean counterparts to share the former’s own transactional experiences that involved Ms Pansuk. As it were, she had used the same ruse in the Thai capitol and was, in fact, the Thai police’s person of interest in an investigation into scams that sound similar to what the husband and wife used here to defraud those many people, all the while living a life of enviable/admirable luxury, including the ownership of two flashy sports cars (later reported to be four), one of them purportedly bought as a gift by Ms Pansuk for her husband that were, as shown in online photographs, parked in the driveway of their rented Holland Road house that came with a lap pool.
Known to the online daigou (代购 or purchasing-on-behalf-of-clients) community as Ann, she has now been exposed on Thai social media and news outlets to have scammed others as far as Korea and many others in her homeland. Back in mid-2017 (and until early 2018), when Korea would be hit by a bitterly cold winter around Christmas, according to Yonhap News Agency, Ms Pansuk had spent some time in the capital city. She was reportedly a lover of K-everything (including the TV series Descendants of the Sun) and enjoyed shopping and living in Seoul. No one could say how she was able to finance her relatively long vacation. It was later rumoured that she was dating a Korean man who owned a bar in the swanky Gangnam area. There was no post on Ms Panuk’s social media about such an important and joyous romance in her life (it could have been deleted), but she did share on FB in 2013 her thoughts on a teenage crush on a classmate, writing in Thai, “I don’t know how short or how long. All I know is that I’m happy now”). When the news of the multi-million dollar cheating and subsequent escape from the law here emerged in Thailand, former clients and people who know her started commenting on social media that they were not surprised by the outcome. A friend, who studied at Seoul’s Sogang University and was with Ms Pansuk when the latter was in the city that frigid winter, commented in Thai on Facebook two days ago, “Hone-Krasae (one of Thailand’s most popular investigative TV shows) cometh.”
If this implies Ms Pansuk was involved in some kind of criminal operation that should be looked into, it is not clear what that really was. It is, however, not surprising so many want her apprehended. Some Thais are presently saying that they were duped by Ms Pansuk into investing in a bogus real estate scheme during this period. We are unable to determine the veracity of that charge nor determine if the real estate scam in question played out in Seoul or Bangkok, where Ms Pansuk was supposedly living before decamping to the Korean capital for a while and where she later returned to. Reportedly, she had impressed many of her victims that she came from a wealthy family (even royal!) and had studied in the UK. Before the Seoul sojourn, when she updated her profile photo on Facebook in March 2017, someone she knows asked her where she was at that moment, and she said that she was in Thailand. The guy also wanted to know if she was not going to the UK, and she replied in Anglicised Thai, “No money, so very sad.” Could this be the reason, we speculate, that she went to Seoul to ponder or embark on a career of cheating?
Pi Jiapeng and Siriwipa Pansuk, who is seen in this photo with an Hermes Birkin. Photo: klvnjp123_/Instagram
It seemed that three months after her Seoul escapade, she returned to Bangkok. No one is able to say what happened to her Gangnam romance or if she had a job to return to, but stories are now emerging that she got married to a Korean chap (it is not certain if it was the bar owner or someone else) in 2019, which meant she likely returned to Seoul before the COVID-19 pandemic struck and later overwhelmed the city. When she was in Bangkok, she was plotting with others (reportedly four) to seed the scamming that would be her profession. One Singaporean victim told Shin Ming Daily News (新明日报) that after she “斥责 (reprimanded)” Ms Pansuk (and Mr Pi) on Facebook, a Thai Netizens DM-ed her to say that she, too, was a victim and that Ms Pansuk had been operating her sham business in Bangkok between April and June last year (although others pointed out that it went as far back as 2017. Back then she sold low-price items such as clothing and Line character merchandise). She added that she lost shocking amounts of money to the woman and her accomplices. Reports were apparently filed with the Thai police, who later issued warrants of her arrest—eight of them. Now that she’s on the Interpol list, one Thai vocal coach who was also with Ms Pansuk in Seoul, wrote on Facebook, “It’s almost the day I’ve been waiting for—after four years.”
Through this time, Ms Pansuk’s scams reportedly chalked up more than 100 million baht (approximately S$3.8 million) of paid-up but undelivered goods that included Korean merchandise, even concert tickets. She operated under a different name then, not her actual moniker. How did so many people fall for her offerings or, possibly, charm, deceitful as it was? According to some victims, Ms Pansuk demanded “100% deposit” for items ordered. In the beginning, she would honour the sales to gain trust. On some occasions, she urged her buyers to sell their purchases before they received them at a higher price, claiming that there were interested parties. This could be one way to avoid providing those merchandise already sold. But she did pay the individuals who ‘resold’ their buys, together with the profits earned. One woman said that this encouraged her to trust Ms Pansuk, so much so that she ordered even more bags—another six. Despite the seeming smoothness and profitability of her business, Ms Pansuk was not insecure. In one 2017 Facebook post, she wrote in Thai: “Anyone can call on us when they need us but when we need someone no one is there.”
Siriwipa Pansuk in Bangkok, in 2018. Photo: Facebook
Having evaded the reach of the law in Korea and Thailand, it is thought that Ms Pansuk might have thought herself to be impervious to being caught, even the attendant fear, and believed that moving her operation to Singapore, she might avoid being apprehended here too. She could have fomented the relocation after knowing Pi Jiapeng, a former shoe salesman, who met her through a dating app that some in Thailand said is for rich women seeking boyfriends with the preference of the company of wealthy ladies. According to The Straits Times, that app is, in fact, Tinder. One of the most discussed anecdotes pertaining to the unlikely union, especially among male Netizens, is her gifting Mr Pi with a sports car. It is not known if this was before they were married or after. Or, inducement of marriage. According to Registry of Marriage (ROM) records, the couple tied the knot in September 2020, at the height of the pandemic. If it’s true that she was married to a Korean in 2019, as shared on Thai social media, Ms Pansuk would have divorced the fellow and dated Mr Pi all in less than a year, before the second marriage, which was only a solemnisation service at the ROM building on Fort Canning, and, reportedly, with Ms Pansuk’s mother in attendance.
Born in 1994 in Roi-Et province in central-northeast Thailand, known as Issan (also where the most-lauded Thai male model Zak Srakaew was born before emigrating to the UK, and was cast in a Burberry campaign), Ms Pansuk’s childhood and ’hood are not much known. Although in Korea in 2017/18, she made herself out to be the daughter of a wealthy family, she is, in fact, from far much humbler background. A graphic designer in the Thai media industry told us that Roi-Et is “not the type of province where you’d think of wealth although there are (likely) rich families there.” In one very recent investigation by Thai television channel Amarin TV, her mother, identified as Mdm Khamphong, was revealed to kai manao (ขายมะนาว) or sell limes in a Nonthaburi market (likely vegetables as well, since it is not a viable business to hawk just one type of citrus). A woman, who is supposedly Ms Pansuk’s aunt (maternal or paternal, it isn’t ascertained), told the Amarin TV reporter that, at the start, both she and her niece’s mother hawked together. Then, her co-hawker “became rich” and she stopped coming to the stall, and they lost touch. She added that she had not seen her niece or the latter helping her mother at the stall. A motorcycle taxi driver interviewed even knew that the woman later “disappeared in a (Mercedes) Benz”. The mother, curiously, has gone into hiding, too.
The market stall that Siriwipa Pansuk’s mother runs. Screen shot: Amarin TV/YouTube
Siriwipa Pansuk’s supposed Bangkok residence, even when her mother sells limes in the market and her husband is a former shoe salesman. Screen shot: Amarin TV/YouTube
The new-found wealth resulted in the purchase of a two-story bungalow in a gated residential estate in Nonthaburi that Amarin TV estimated to cost more that 60 million baht (or approximately S$2.3 million). Even the show’s anchors wondered how the selling of limes, which would bring about 300 baht (or about S$12)—presumably per day—could provide the means for a woman to live in, if not own, a multi-million baht home. The same could be said of the daughter: how did a girl of her standing come to possess such a property? The house is believed to have been sold two months ago. Very little is known of Siriwipa Pansuk’s formative years. At some point, the family (comprising the mother and two brothers, one older, the other, younger. There is no mention of her father but Thai media reported that he is a taxi driver) moved south, from Roi-Et to Nonthaburi (her registered address), a municipality about 21.5 kilometres away from central Bangkok. While she told quite a few people that she studied in the UK, she, in fact, attended just one school, according to her Facebook profile: Pramaesakolsongkroh School, a 75-year-old Catholic institution in the north of Nonthaburi. The large schoolhouse, which sits in the heart of Bang Bua Thong district’s seemingly Catholic enclave and in the close proximity of the Maria Mother of Peace Cemetery and The Blessed Virgin Mary The Mediatrix of all Graces Church, provides no more than secondary education. It is not known if Ms Pansuk graduated or how well she faired. In school, she was a member of the Scouts (it appears to be co-ed) and she claimed to like a “social” life. In one post (a response to her musing), a school chum wrote in 2013, when Ms Pansuk would have been 19, “We didn’t study”.
There is also little to glean from her young adult life in Bangkok or what her plans for the future were, other than the cheating she was hatching. After she married Pi Jiapeng in 2020, she was ready to return to her scamming ways. Some Netizens suggested that it was she who led Mr Pi astray, down the path of crime. Many, in fact, were curious about their relationship or if they could communicate at all. It is said that Ms Pansuk speaks English and well enough to conduct business (perhaps attributable to her Catholic secondary school), but it is not certain that Mr Pi, who is originally from Fujian, China, and, according to The Straits Times, a secondary-three dropout, is able to interact with her in proficient enough English to plot their game plan (it’s also unknown if his wife speaks Mandarin or Hokkien). That the fellow, who had been an odd-jobber before selling shoes, was attracted to her is understandable. Ms Pansuk, unlike the typical Issan lass, is relatively fair-skinned. Her seemingly girlish self, contained in a trim, 1.64m-tall fame, would have been the dream girl of a new, mainland Chinese immigrant who, although younger, might not have had it easy meeting a potential spouse.
Siriwipa Pansuk in Bangkok, in 2017. Photo: Deejean Wirapongpakdee/Facebook
However, according to one of the few Singaporean victims who had met the couple and socialised with them, the husband and wife did not appear to be “loving”. He speculated that the relationship was one based on “co-operation”, and that Ms Pansuk was the true mastermind behind their elaborate ruse. He even suggested that Mr Pi was being made use of because his Singapore citizenship came in handy for her, which seem to concur with current online sentiments about the marriage. He was reported to have said that when he met them for a meal, Ms Pansuk did not introduce Mr Pi as her husband. And that Mr Pi did not appear to be advantaged by any personal accomplishment. Another victim claimed that the couple loved gambling and would visit casinos “everyday” and that they were “high rollers”, betting as much as “S$100,000 a night”. It isn’t stated if they won anything or if, there were winnings, the money was reinvested into the business, which included two registered companies Tradenation (now suspended) and Tradeluxury, and a shop in Tanjong Pagar.
It is hard not to say that Siriwipa Pansuk is a talented young woman. It is possible that in all the audacious scheming, the ill-gotten gains, and the eventual escape, even the marriage, she was the sole planner. So smart and resourceful she was that both she and her husband were able to escape the detection of the immigration points of three different ports, to end up in Thailand—undetectable, as they lay low in a country of 70 million people. The story of their incredible daring has prompted some to say that it deserves a Netflix original series. On his IG profile (which is now set to private), Mr Pi Jiapeng wrote, as if foretelling, “Let’s wait for the last laugh”. If they’re patient, it could be them laughing really hard indeed.
Update (11 August 2022, 6.35pm): As reported by The Straits Time moments ago, Siriwipa Pansuk and her husband Pi Jiapeng were caught in Johor Bahru and were brought back to Singapore this afternoon
Illustration: Just So