Padermchai's son says he is innocent

The Department of Special Investigation said on Wednesday it has found no connection between the burnt-out luxury cars in the tax-avoidance scandal and the son of Labour Minister Padermchai Sasomsap, who showed them documents he said proved his innocence..

This red Ferrari is one of the four burnt-out luxury cars beng held at Klang Dong police station in Pak Chong district, Nakhon Ratchasima. (Photo by Sarit Srisang)

Pol Lt Col Kornwat Panprapakorn, the DSI's chief investigator in charge of the northeastern region, said a preliminary investigation and the evidence presented personally by Army Maj Sukkachart Sasomsap showed no connection between the six luxury cars and the minister's son.

He stressed the investigation will continue, and Maj Sukkachart will face further questioning and may be asked to produce more documents.

Maj Sukkachart, son of Labour Minister Padermchai Sasomsap, took a proactive role and went to the DSI with his car registration book and tax receipt for the registration of his Lamborghini, which he said proved that he had changed the licence plate.

He was summoned by the DSU for investigation after one of the two plates - Chor Lor 6217 Bangkok - was found in the wreckage of a Lamborghini burnt on May 29 in Pak Chong district, Nakhon Ratchasima, when a car transporter caught fire.

The plate was linked to Maj Sukkachart, leading to speculation about his connection with the damaged cars, which reportedly were being carried to Si Sa Ket for registration.

He told reporters after the DSI interview that the damaged car was not the one he used. They are different models, he said.

DSI director-general Tarit Pengdith said before the interview that Maj Sukkachart would be questioned about the licence plate found inside the fire-gutted Lamborghini, one of four "super cars" destroyed in the transporter fire.

He was initially asked to report on Thursday, but the meeting was brought forward to about 5pm Wednesday because Maj Sukkachart was not available on Thursday, Mr Tarit said.

It is the first time the officer's name had been officially mentioned. Previously, he was referred to only as "a son" of the minister.

Labour Minister Padermchai Sasomsap (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)

Mr Padermchai previously said the licence plate registration had been cancelled because his son, who also drives a white Lamborghini, had bought a new one at an auction.

Mr Tarit said the summons did not mean that Maj Sukkachart was associated with the tax evasion scheme involving  luxury car imports now under investigation by the DSI.

Maj Sukkachart posted a message on Facebook calling for fair reporting by the media, asking, "who will take responsibility for the damage to the Sasomsaps''.

He told  Matichon and Post Today newspapers that his Lamborghini was second hand, bought in April last year, and he had all the evidence needed to prove it.

He denied any knowledge about his old registration plate being found in the burnt-out car.

"Chor Lor 6217 (Bangkok) could have changed hands several times. I have no idea how it came to be there.  The Land Transport Department is the right agency for an answer,'' he told Matichon.

The Lamborghini was one of the four super cars burnt on May 29 in a still unexplained fire on a transporter taking them to Si Sa Ket. The other three were a red Ferrari, blue BMW and black Bentley.

Another two cars - a white Mercedez-Benz and a black Bentley - were undamaged. All are being held at Klang Dong police station, Pak Chong.

Officials of the DSI are work with other agencies - including the Central Institute of Forensic Science, the Customs Department and Exercise Department - after taking the six-car case as a special investigation. They suspect attempts to evade tax on the importation of the six cars, which were all to be registered in Si Sa Ket.

Police have a separate investigation underway into the cause of the blaze.

The DSI believes 5,832 cars, not all of them luxury super cars, have been brought into the country as parts and then reassembled to evaded import taxes.

The cars could have been falsely declared as used auto spare parts, or been disassembled into parts and then reassembled once they entered Thailand.

Many of the vehicles, including those six cars now parked at Klang Dong police station, were fitted to run on liquid gas, to avoid strict inspections. Officials believe that they were to be later reconverted to use petrol after the registration process was completed.

No one has come forward to claim the six vehicles since the fire.

Mr Tarit said the investigation will mainly focus on cars where there is solid evidence pointing to tax evasion. The agency will allow  owners of the cars who are unsure whether their vehicles have been legally taxed to contact officials for verification. It was possible they were not aware that their vehicle was subject to tax evasion.

Those violating the tax laws could be fined four times the normal tax rate and sent to jail for 10 years, under the  Customs Act.

The Land Transport Department's records show 6,826 cars were registered as gas-powered vehicles locally assembled from used auto parts between October 2000 and March this year, according to Transport Minister Chadchat Suttipunt.

Bangkok registered 816 cars and the rest were in other provinces, topped by Nonthaburi and Saraburi.

The minister said provinces with unusally high registrations of the cars will be the prime target of the probe by the Land Transport Department.

Related search: luxury cars, dsi, padermchai sasomsap, sukkachart, tax evasion, transport, cars

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Writer: King-Oua Laohong and Amornrat Mahitthirook