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Thai-based China trade group says man named in crypto scam report no longer a board member

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows representations of cryptocurrencies

By Tom Wilson

(Reuters) - A Chinese businessman who featured in a Reuters investigation into crypto-investment fraud is no longer a board member of a Bangkok-based trade group he had represented, the group said on Monday.

The trade group, called the Thai-Asia Economic Exchange Trade Association, was responding to a Nov. 23 Reuters article about Wang Yicheng, who had been the group’s vice president, according to the group’s website. The story detailed how an account registered in Wang’s name had over recent years received millions of dollars from a crypto wallet that a U.S. blockchain analysis firm said was linked to crypto-investment scams.

The trade group hadn’t responded to comment requests for the Nov. 23 report. In a Dec. 4 letter to Reuters, the Thai-Asia trade group said Wang had left the association’s board more than three months ago. That was “due to personal reasons,” it said, without elaborating, and Wang’s failure to pay the trade group’s new membership dues.

The group said in its letter that background checks conducted on Wang when he originally applied for membership showed he did not have a criminal record at the time. The group said it ran further checks after the Reuters report and found that Wang had no criminal records in Thailand or other countries.

Wang didn’t respond to detailed questions for the Nov. 23 article. He didn’t respond to questions for this report about his status with the Thai-Asia group.

The Thai-Asia trade group shared its small office building in Bangkok until recently with another Chinese group, Reuters reported in November. In February, Thai police said they raided the other Chinese group’s office, alleging the group had ties to the 14K Triad criminal organization.

The Thai-Asia association in its Dec. 4 letter said that it “has never had any dealings or relationships” with gang-related organizations.

It said it is a non-profit organization that promotes “economic and cultural exchanges between China and Thailand.” Its main source of income, it said, is the voluntary donations of members, and the business of its individual members “has nothing to do” with the association.

The Nov. 23 Reuters report also described ties between the Thai-Asia trade group and Thai government officials. In its Dec. 4 letter, the Thai Asia association said some of the officials “are indeed the advisors and friends” of the group, who have come together for “the common goal of promoting exchanges between China and Thailand.” The letter added that there were no further “business or financial interests” between advisors and the trade group or its members. It didn't elaborate.

(Reporting by Tom Wilson; Editing by Cassell Bryan-Low)