Nauru’s government says it didn’t know diplomat rented luxury Bangkok property

Stephen Wright
Nauru’s government says it didn’t know diplomat rented luxury Bangkok property An apartment building in a compound of high-end residences in Bangkok is seen in this Jan. 18, 2022 photo. The Pacific island nation of Nauru rented a home in the compound for its consul-general to Thailand, his family and staff, but Chinese nationals used it as a base for forging passports, Thai police have said.
Stephen Wright/BenarNews

Updated at 11:56 a.m. ET on 2023-01-23

The government of Nauru, a Pacific island that’s one of the world’s smallest countries, said it had “absolutely no knowledge” its consul-general to Thailand had rented a luxury home in Bangkok that was allegedly used as a passport-forging base by Chinese criminals. 

The home in an exclusive residential compound popular with diplomats was raided by Thai police on Dec. 22 after constant comings and goings of people and unregistered vehicles, day and night, caused security concerns. 

“The Government of Nauru did not sanction nor authorize the former consul-general, Onassis Dame, to lease the alleged residence,” Nauru’s government said Monday in a statement. “The government had absolutely no knowledge that Mr. Dame had entered into any such lease.” 

“The Government of Nauru categorically refutes all allegations or implications of any association by the Government of Nauru to the occupants of the alleged residence in any way or any involvement or even knowledge of their alleged illegal activities,” the statement said.

The statement had no information about Dame’s whereabouts.

Dame leased the property in early September when he was still Nauru’s consul-general to Thailand. It was ostensibly for him, his family and two staff members but they never lived at the property, according to a legal letter from the property leasing company seen by BenarNews. His term as consul-general ended in November, according to Thai police.

Nauru’s government said it is conducting its own investigation into Dame’s renting of the property and will assist Thailand with its probe if needed.

“The Government of Nauru stands ready to cooperate in whatever way that may be required to assist in such investigations,” it said. 

The raided compound, in central Bangkok, is home to luxury homes and high-end apartment buildings with well-tended grounds, swimming pools, and tennis courts connected by a private road. 

The eight-bedroom three-story house that Dame leased is listed for 430,000 baht (U.S. $13,000) a month on a Thai property site.

Nauru’s vice-consul in Thailand, John Yu, has not responded to requests for comment. 

Attempts by BenarNews to contact Dame by phone and email have been unsuccessful.

Nauru, northeast of Australia, is the world’s third smallest state by area after the Vatican and Monaco. It is one of only 14 countries that recognizes Taiwan instead of China. 

The 21-square-kilometer (eight-square-mile) atoll is pockmarked by a phosphate mining industry that for several decades made Nauru among the world’s richest nations.

The most accessible phosphate is now exhausted and Nauru, home to about 10,000 people, is reliant on aid from Australia, Taiwan and the Asian Development Bank. In 2008, Nauru recognized the breakaway Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in an effort to also secure Russian aid.

In Thailand, the passport forgery investigation is the latest in a series of busts of crime rings and unregistered businesses involving Chinese nationals. 

The case has also put a spotlight on official corruption as Department of Special Investigation (DSI) officers and other officials who carried out the Dec. 22 raid were arrested in January for taking a bribe from two Chinese nationals wanted by Beijing and allowing them to escape. 

This report has been updated with a new photo.


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