File photo: Gene J Puskar

Durban - A South African man has been arrested in Thailand on charges of ATM fraud and faces a sentence of more than 70 years if convicted.

Phuket police allegedly found cloned electronic bank cards and a stack of cash in his hotel room.

Mangoba Parker Ngcobo, 32, was arrested in his Horizon Hotel room on Patong beach last Friday. Police were tipped off by bank officials with video footage of Ngcobo allegedly making suspicious withdrawals in Patong, Kata and Karon between June 17 and 19.

According to reports, 72 cloned bank cards, which he claims to have bought from South African acquaintances, along with 28 000 baht in cash (R9 200) were also found in the hotel room.

The Bangkok Post reported on Friday that Ngcobo said in his defence that he had bought the cards from South African friends.

The Phuket Gazette said police were unsure exactly how much cash Ngcobo had withdrawn.

On Thursday night, The Mercury spoke to a police officer from Phuket, Gen Krajang, who said Ngcobo had refused to answer any questions during interrogation.

“As part of a crackdown on crime throughout Phuket, police and bank staff have been working together to stay ahead of ATM scams,” said Gen Krajang.

Nelson Kgwete, spokesman for the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, confirmed the arrest, saying the department had been in contact with Ngcobo’s relatives.

“Our embassy in Bangkok has been informed of the arrest of Mr Ngcobo in Phuket on ATM card-skimming related charges.

“The department has also been in contact with certain individuals claiming to be related to the detainee, but will only be able to proceed with further consular assistance once Mr Ngcobo has granted us permission to release information to such individuals.”

Kgwete said embassy staff in Bangkok would visit Ngcobo as soon as possible.

Ngcobo has been charged and, if found guilty, faces three years behind bars and an additional year for each of the suspected fake electronic cards.

The Phuketwan, an online news site, reported that it was his third visit to Thailand and his second visit to Phuket, this time for four days.

In 2011, a South African woman was arrested in Thailand on charges of drug possession.

Nolubabalo Nobanda, 23, from Grahamstown, was jailed for 15 years after immigration officials caught her smuggling 1.5kg of cocaine with a street value of R1.2 million. – Additional reporting by The Star

The Mercury