Pheu Thai files fresh charge over skytrain extension

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has agreed to investigate the setting up of a mutual fund relating to the skytrain extensions contract between the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) and Bangkok Transit System Co (BTSC).

BTSC skytrain (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

The decision follows the filing of a new petition with the DSI by Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit on Wednesday.

In the petition, the DSI was asked to investigate a request submitted to the Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by BTS Group Holdings Plc and BBL Assets Management Co to set up the BTS Rail Mass Transit Growth Infrastructure Fund.

The fund is still in the registration process

Advertisements had been published in various news media inviting the public to invest in the fund, and this might be in violation of the law because the fund was set up after the contract between the BMA and the BTSC to operate skytrain extensions was signed.

If the contract was later ruled as being invalid, the invitation for the public to invest in the fund could be regarded as cheating the public, accoroding to the petition. The invitation was for the public to buy shares worth 50-60 billion baht in total.

Pol Lt Col Wannapong Kocharak, director of the DSI's Office of Financial and Banking Cases, said that a preliminary examination of related documents found that the BTSC, in the request to set up the BTS Rail Mass Transit Growth Infrastructure Fund, cited future revenues to be earned under the skytrain extensions contract to mobilise share holdings.

There were many conditions on investment which involved a large amount of money. Therefore, an investigation was needed to find out if the petition had grounds, he said.

DSI chief Tarit Pengdith said his agency had accepted the petition as a new case, and the Office of Financial and Banking Cases had been assigned to handle it.

If the petition was found to have grounds, legal action would be taken against violators.

MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra receives flowers from his supporters on Jan 9, 2013. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

The investigation would be expedited, because the BTS was advertising to sell shares in the fund, he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra and his deputy Teerachon Manomaiphibul reported to the DSI and denied all charges laid against them in connection with the contract for the Bangkok Transit System Co to operate the skytrain extensions for 30 years.

Pol Lt Col Thawal Mangkhang, the DSI's special cases specialist and chief investigator of the case, said MR Sukhumbhand and Mr Teerachon had acknowledged the charges of violating Announcement No 58 issued by former coup makers.

The announcement, which is equivalent to an act, requires the BMA to first get permission from the interior minister.

Both MR Sukhumbhand and Mr Teerachon denied the charges.

Pol Lt Col Thawal said MR Sukhumbhand affirmed during an interrogation that he empowered Mr Teerachon to sign the contract on his behalf and the DSI wanted him to send an official letter to confirm this.

MR Sukhumbhand said after the two-hour interrogation that he had complied with the law and wanted the case against him and 11 other accused to proceed without political interference.  He said he was ready to fight in court for justice.

Only MR Sukhumbhand and Mr Teerachon reported to the DSI to hear the charges on Wednesday. The seven other individuals accused in the case are to report on Jan 15 and two firms - Krungthep Thanakhom and BTSC - on Jan 16.

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