5 face bribery charges over power scandal

5 face bribery charges over power scandal

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is preparing to file charges against five Thai officials for their alleged involvement in a 20-million-baht bribery case in connection with the delivery of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Ltd (MHPS) equipment to a gas-fired power plant in 2003.

The NACC has completed 80% of its probe into the scandal which involves several local agencies and the Marine Department. Between four to five people are believed to have received kickbacks, NACC member Witthaya Arkhompitak, who led the investigation, said yesterday.

The graft watchdog is treating the case seriously because the transnational bribery case dented foreign investor confidence in Thailand, he said. Each suspect will be given a chance to set the record straight, Mr Witthaya added.

The alleged graft came to light after Japanese media reported that prosecutors in Japan had reached a plea deal with a major power equipment supplier accused of bribing public servants in Thailand. The agreement with Yokohama-based MHPS was the first of its kind since the option was introduced in June.

MHPS was awarded a 30-billion-baht contract by the government in February 2013 to supply the machinery to a 5,300-megawatt gas-fired power plant.

Japan's Supreme Court ruled that the company violated an antitrust law by offering a bribe to Thai civil servants in relation to the unloading of equipment at Khanom Power Plant Unit 4 in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, according to media reports.

The wrongdoing was in the so-called equipment transport process which "did not involve the [Energy] ministry", Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan said earlier this week, denying a link between the bribery and the ministry's third round of auctions for independent power producers in 2013.

At this stage, the NACC believes it is not necessary to ask Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to exercise a powerful Section 44 order to suspend all suspects from their jobs, Mr Witthaya said. The investigators can handle the issue under normal legal procedures.

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