Hopewell to be investigated for 'illegal registration'
The Department of Business Development (DBD) has been ordered to conduct a detailed probe into the legal registration of Hopewell (Thailand) Co after the issue was raised with the Administrative Court.
The probe was ordered by Deputy Commerce Minister Weerasak Wangsuphakijkosol, who said yesterday the department must report back to him with the results as soon as possible.
The move came after Nitithorn Lamlua, a lawyer for the Transport Ministry and the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), filed a case with the Administrative Court against Hopewell's partnership registration, and the DBD for having accepted it in 1990.
The Transport Ministry and the SRT are fighting a court order to pay a huge sum in compensation to Hopewell for terminating its contract to build a 60-kilometre elevated highway and rail system in 1998.
Mr Nitithorn said earlier that the Finance Ministry was being urged to petition the Administrative Court for nullification of the controversial contract the Transport Ministry signed with Hopewell in 1990.
The SRT felt the contract should be declared null because the company which inked it was Hopewell (Thailand) and not Hopewell (Hong Kong), he added.
The cabinet had authorised the Transport Ministry to sign the contract with Hopewell (Hong Kong), according to Mr Nitithorn. Since it was not a legitimate partner, Hopewell (Thailand) had no right to sue the SRT for compensation, he said. Yesterday, Mr Weerasak said Hopewell is regarded by law as a foreign company which sought to operate in Thailand. The DBD must run a thorough check to establish if there were grounds to the allegation that it was registered unlawfully.
Mr Nitithorn said previously that Hopewell (Thailand) did not have the required permit to conduct transportation operations and services, so it could not register with the DBD.
In April this year, the Supreme Administrative Court ordered the Transport Ministry and SRT to pay Hopewell 25 billion baht for wrongfully terminating the contract.