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Top ICT official faces sack

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The highest-ranking official at the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry will likely be sacked following a panel's ruling on the Thaicom shareholding case, a source says. 

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NAAC) on Wednesday said it had found three ICT officials, including permanent secretary Chaiyan Puengkiatpairote, guilty of malfeasance in violation of Section 157 of the Criminal Code.

The law prohibits officials from doing something that may cause damage to the state.

The NACC said the three officials including former ICT minister Surapong Suebwonglee and the ministry's former permanent secretary Kraisorn Pornsuthi had allowed Shin Corporation to reduce its minimum shareholding in its satellite affiliate Thaicom from 51% to 40%.

Since the NACC's decision is final, Mr Chaiyan was suspended from duty immediately, the source said.

The NACC will also recommend the ICT Ministry take disciplinary action.

ICT Minister Anudith Nakornthap said yesterday he had not yet received the formal recommendation.

The NACC's decision was based on two factors: that the men violated a disciplinary rule relating to Section 92 of the 1999 Anti-Corruption Act and violating Section 157 of the Criminal Code.

The NACC said Mr Kraisorn and Mr Chaiyan had acknowledged that Shin sought to reduce its minimum shareholding in Thaicom as the company was seeking a foreign strategic partner for business expansion and finances to fund the launch of its iPSTAR satellite.

The concession amendment was endorsed on Oct 18, 2004, by both officials and approved by Mr Surapong during the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, bypassing cabinet approval.

On Feb 26, 2010, the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Office ruled in the asset-seizure case against Thaksin that Mr Surapong's endorsement of the change in the satellite concession without cabinet approval was illegal and the change benefited Shin Corp, the concessionaire.

The court said the shareholding change meant Shin Corporation - the major shareholder of Shin Satellite, controlled by Thaksin and his family while he held public office - had effectively reduced its investment burden from 51% to 40%. This meant the investment burden was passed on to small shareholders in the stock market, the court said.

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