September 27, 2016 / 8:57 AM / 2 years ago

Thai police say suspected passport gang members are U.S. citizens

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Three foreign members of a suspected passport forgery gang charged with concealing a dead body in a freezer are Americans, police said on Tuesday.

The men were arrested after a raid on a residential compound in the Thai capital Bangkok on Friday. One police officer was shot and wounded in the raid.

A search of the compound revealed the dismembered body of a man in plastic bags in a freezer. Police also found hundreds of forged U.S, British and French passports.

“The FBI attached in Bangkok has confirmed to us that all three people arrested on Friday are American citizens,” Thai Immigration Police Chief Nathorn Phrosunthorn told Reuters.

Nathorn said that the men did not have criminal records, though one had been charged with credit card fraud in the United States in 1979 but not convicted.

The men have been charged with creating illegal documents, illegal entry and hiding a dead body. All three deny the charges.

Police have so far been unable to identify the dismembered body which they described as belonging to a blond-haired foreign male.

With a high number of visitors every year, Thailand has a booming black market for fake identity documents.

Authorities struggle to track the thousands of lost or stolen passports each year with some known to be sold on to drug traffickers while others are suspected to end up in the hands of Islamist militants.

Reporting by Cod Satrusayang and Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Nick Macfie

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