NACC freezes Sathian's assets

Ex-defence permanent secretary 'unusually rich'

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has frozen about 65 million baht worth of assets held by former defence permanent secretary Gen Sathian Permthong-in and three others, after declaring the retired officer unusually wealthy.

Gen Sathian Permthong-in waves as he drives away on Tuesday after learning that millions of baht in his bank accounts have been frozen on suspicion he is "unusually wealthy".

The decision was announced Tuesday by Vicha Mahakhun, an NACC member.

Mr Vicha said an NACC panel found that Gen Sathian was unusually rich while serving as defence permanent secretary.

More than 10 million baht was transferred to his bank account and more than 100 million baht into the accounts of his wife, Natthanicha, and their adopted daughter, Nichapat, in 2010.

The amount of money in their accounts, which involved land transactions and transfers, was higher than they could acquire and the money probably came from Gen Sathian, Mr Vicha said, citing the panel's findings.

The panel also found that about 20 million baht was later transferred to Sombat Chanthornwong, a political science lecturer at Thammasat University, who was counselling Ms Nichapat on her doctorate.

Mr Vicha said Mr Sombat testified that he received the money from Mrs Natthanicha, Gen Sathian's wife, and invested it in the university's savings cooperative.

He told the NACC that Mrs Natthanicha told him to keep the money temporarily because her family had some problems. Mr Vicha said this meant Mr Sombat had become "a nominee."

The NACC, therefore, resolved to freeze 65 million baht of assets held by the four people.

The frozen money and assets held by Mrs Natthanicha include 839,982 baht in her bank account, title deeds and Nor Sor 3 Kor land ownership documents for four land plots in Ubon Ratchathani.

Ms Nichapat's frozen assets include title deeds and Nor Sor 3 Kor documents for five land plots in Ubon Ratchathani and Bangkok, a Toyota Innova, a Lexus, while about 10 million baht in four bank accounts in the university's savings cooperative held by Mr Sombat was also frozen.

Gen Sathian will be summoned by the NACC within 30 days to explain where the assets came from, Mr Vicha said.

Mr Vicha said the NACC had discovered irregularities in Gen Sathian's assets list and immediately launched an inquiry.

Mr Vicha said the NACC also found Gen Sathian had made a false assets declaration to the NACC while serving as a board member of the Warehouse Organisation from 2007-2008.

Mr Vicha said Gen Sathian's undeclared assets worth more than 14 million baht include cash in a bank account at an Ubon Ratchathani branch of the Thai Military Bank, investment capital on the stock market, investment money in the savings cooperative of the Armed Forces Development Command under the Supreme Command and title deeds for land plots in Ubon Ratchathani's Muang district.

The NACC has forwarded the case to the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions for a final judgement, Mr Vicha said.

Mr Sombat told the Bangkok Post Tuesday he had known Mrs Natthanicha since she began studying for a master's at Krirk University eight years ago.

He was later introduced to Ms Nichapat who was pursuing a master's degree at Thammasat.

Sathian: Will be summoned to explain

Mr Sombat said Mrs Natthanicha and Ms Nichapat visited him at his home last year and asked him to hold onto 18 million baht temporarily because their family had some problems. Mr Sombat said the pair returned a few days later and asked for the money back to buy a land plot.

In October last year, he said, Mrs Natthanicha gave him a cheque worth 27 million baht which she said was the profit she made selling the land plot to a company. The company wrote the cheque with Mr Somsak as a recipient.

Mr Sombat said he then deposited the money in the university's savings cooperative. He said he had withdrawn money from the account 15-16 times and returned it to Ms Nichapat. The account is now almost empty, he said.

Mr Sombat said the NACC first summoned him to testify on Nov 14 last year and will appear again tomorrow.

Mr Sombat insisted he had not profited from the financial arrangement.

"All the money belongs to them. If I wanted to benefit, why would I deposit it in the bank?" he said.

In August last year, Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat transferred Gen Sathian, who was then permanent secretary for defence, and two other senior officers to inactive posts at the Defence Minister's office.

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Writer: King-Oua Laohong & Nattaya Chetchotiros