Suthep shrugs off DSI graft probe

Dems chide ex-deputy PM for keeping silent

Former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban says he is unworried about a corruption probe launched into a police station construction contract in which he was involved.

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) is investigating corruption charges in a project to build 396 police station offices and 163 police apartment blocks nationwide.

The scheme kicked off on March 25, 2011, when Mr Suthep was supervising the national police, and most of the structures have since been left incomplete and abandoned.

Mr Suthep yesterday made his first public comments on the probe, saying he has yet to receive any summons from the DSI, which began its investigation last month.

His decision to keep quiet on the issue arose from his confidence that the DSI could never implicate him in the case, a Democrat Party source said. But his silence prompted some senior party figures, including party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, to criticise Mr Suthep for letting the DSI accuse him regularly without defending himself.

Thanin Prempree, director of the DSI's corruption prevention and suppression centre, said DSI chief Tarit Pengdith had signed an order asking three former police chiefs to come in for questioning.

Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwon, Pol Gen Prateep Tanprasert and Pol Gen Wichean Potephosree have been summoned for questioning on Feb 11, 13, and 15 respectively. Mr Suthep is likely to be next in line for a summons, Mr Thanin said.

Investigators have also contacted PCC Development and Construction Co, the sole contractor of the project, to come in for questioning within 15 days. The company has been asked to provide information about its participation in the bidding for the contract, the contract signed with the Royal Thai Police and the numbers of sub-contractors it hired, Mr Thanin said.

The DSI also asked PCC to disclose information about the project's construction plan, reports of its progress and how the budget was disbursed.

Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit has formally requested the Anti-Money Laundering Office to investigate the project's money trail.

He said he suspected that much of the budget handed over to PCC had simply vanished. According to his petition, a payment of 877 million baht had been paid by cheque to PCC to build the stations. PCC had only 500 million baht in authorised capital and no previous record of completing a project of this scale, he said.

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Writer: King-oua Laohong
Position: Reporter