The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has agreed to investigate a complaint that the planned infrastructure fund by Bangkok Transit System Co (BTSC) skytrain operator is fraudulent.
This advertisement for the "BTS Rail Mass Transit Growth Infrastructure Fund" was running on the websites of several Bangkok media - but was suddenly jerked off in a fit of internet-cleansing after a new investigation was authorised by the DSI Wednesday afternoon.
The move came as Bangkok governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra Wednesday reported to the DSI to acknowledge charges of unlawful granting of the extension contract to the BTSC.
DSI chief Tarit Pengdith said Wednesday that investigators have reviewed the infrastructure fund complaint and found there are grounds to pursue it.
He said that the DSI will waste no time because the BTSC will be launching the fund shortly.
The fund units are expected to be sold either at the end of January or the beginning of February, pending approval by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
BTSC is expected to raise about 50-60 billion baht to invest in future elevated train projects.
The complaint, lodged by Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit, alleges that the BTS Rail Mass Transit Growth Infrastructure Fund (BTS GIF) is associated with the contract extension. He argued that if the contract is ruled unlawful then the fund could be a fraudulent investment.
"The DSI has agreed to accept it [the complaint] for investigation and will [expedite the investigation] because the BTSC is currently urging the public to invest," Mr Tarit said.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the BTSC said the infrastructure fund will be based on its revenue from its existing contract, not the latest 13-year extension.
The current contract will not expire for another 17 years until 2029, the statement said. As a result, the accusation of investment fraud or an investigation into the extension has nothing to do with the infrastructure fund, the BTSC said.
MR Sukhumbhand distanced himself from the infrastructure fund, saying Wednesday it has nothing to do with him or City Hall.
The governor spent two hours at the DSI over the accusation that he unlawfully granted the extension contract to the BTSC.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, through its business arm Krungthep Thanakom Co, signed a contract with the BTSC on May 3 last year to extend the skytrain concession by 13 years. The move was slammed as unlawful since it bypassed the interior minister.
"New accusations emerge every day," MR Sukhumbhand said. "They are afraid that I will win the election."
MR Sukhumbhand and his deputy, Teerachon Manomaiphibul, were the only ones to report to the DSI Wednesday morning. Others summoned, including city clerk Ninnat Chalitanont and BTSC's Keeree Kanjanapas, will report on Tuesday. Krungthep Thanakom Co and BTSC will report on Wednesday.
About 300 people gathered in front of the DSI in support of the governor and his deputy. Some wore black in protest against the DSI chief and criticised him for playing politics.
After reporting to the DSI, MR Sukhumbhand went to City Hall to bid farewell to officials and workers. He tendered his resignation, effective at midnight, to the city clerk.
The resignation means the governor election will now be held in 60 days, instead of 45 days had he served out his term Thursday.
The Election Commission has scheduled Jan 21-25 for candidacy registration and March 3 as election day.
MR Sukhumbhand told his supporters that he has tried his best over the past four years and he is ready to serve again if re-elected.
Meanwhile, the Democrat Party will set up a team to help MR Sukhumbhand clear his name in the BTSC deal and over other allegations during the election campaign, said Ong-art Klampaibul, who is directing the Democrats' campaign efforts. "Our opponent is discrediting both the party and our candidate. We believe that more allegations are on the way to sabotage the election campaign," he said.
Mr Ong-art said four working teams have been set up to help with the party's election campaign. A policy platform is expected to be unveiled before the candidacy registration on Jan 21.
He said the Democrats' strategy will be to focus on the continuity of policy and projects.
City Hall has been led by Democrat governors for the past eight years.
Officials gather outside City Hall to bid farewell to MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra who tendered his resignation Wednesday as Bangkok governor ahead of his campaign for re-election. APICHART JINAKUL
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