A TEAM of top private detectives led by a former head of police criminal intelligence in the territory has been hired to find out how the Bangkok toy factory caught fire. Kader Industrial, the Hongkong partner in the factory, said it was paying the world's largest corporate investigations company, Kroll Associates, to carry out a probe into Monday's blaze that claimed at least 240 lives. Heading the inquiry will be the former head of Hongkong's Criminal Intelligence Branch, ex-chief superintendent Mr Steve Vickers. Mr Vickers, 37, was involved in Kroll's hunt for an estimated US$100 billion which disappeared from Russia during the failed communist coup in 1991. ''A vast amount of information has come out of Thailand since Monday, creating confusing messages and we will help Kader Industrial assess exactly what happened,'' said Mr Vickers. Senior Thai police said arson or carelessness were the most likely causes of the blaze - the worst factory fire in history. ''Evidence has proven the fire began in a [cardboard] box for packaging toys on the ground floor of the factory and not from an electrical fault, as claimed,'' said Police Lieutenant-General Prasarn Vongya, chief of the Office of Scientific Crime. Kader senior management yesterday distanced themselves from the factory, saying they had not been involved in the day-to-day running of the business since 1991. Kader Holdings, through wholly-owned subsidiary Kader Industrial, has a 40 per cent interest in Kader Industrial (Thailand), owner of the Bangkok plant. The enterprise is owned 40 per cent by Charoen Pokphand Group of Thailand and the rest by Taiwanese interests. ''We are really a minority shareholder and a passive investor in this business,'' said Kader Industrial managing director, Mr Kenneth Ting Woo-shou. He said the company was being unfairly blamed for the tragedy. ''We feel that we have been victimised alone because the factory, unfortunately, bears our name. Kader has been established for over 40 years and we are well respected. ''Since Monday, we have been getting some verbal information from Thailand but I demanded a progress report from the local management but am still waiting. ''There are many different reports coming out of Hongkong about the fire but I cannot confirm or deny any of them because of the lack of information. ''Our role in the factory consisted of introducing the toy manufacturing industry to Thailand by providing initial training to the local staff after the joint venture was established in 1988,'' he said. Kader Industrial made a HK$27 million investment in the Thai operation. Mr Ting added that Kroll would complete an interim report on the cause of the blaze within a few days. ''We are deeply concerned about the human element of the tragedy and have already pledged our full support to the Thai government inquiry into the fire.'' Mr Ting said the Thai factory was unique in the Kader toy empire - which has factories in China, England, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Indonesia and two in Hongkong - because the on-site managers were not Kader employees. He pledged not to allow the same situation to happen again. ''In all of the other eight factories around the world we have responsibility for the day-to-day management, but Thailand was different. ''I think we will make a policy within Kader that as long as we don't have the management, we will not lend our name to the company. I think it is a very hard lesson learned.'' The Thai factory had been continually in the red since it started and two fires had broken out inside the plant in 1989 and in February this year, Mr Ting confirmed. ''After the 1989 fire the factory was rebuilt in 1990. It was a very modern facility which was designed and built with air conditioning and normal safety features. That is why we are as horrified as everybody about the fire.'' Mr Ting said the company had not decided to get involved in Thailand to take advantage of low labour costs. ''Thailand's wages are lower than Hongkong but are not lower than China or Indonesia, where we have other factories.'' Thai products, he said, qualify for more quota privileges and import licences in the European market than some of the other factories with which Kader is involved.