THG chairman accused for vaccine deal talks

THG chairman accused for vaccine deal talks

Head of crime victims group files complaint, alleging fake news, stock manipulation

Achariya Ruangratanapong, head of the Help Crime Victim Club, second left, gives the complaint to representatives of the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau in Nonthaburi province on Thursday. (Photo supplied)
Achariya Ruangratanapong, head of the Help Crime Victim Club, second left, gives the complaint to representatives of the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau in Nonthaburi province on Thursday. (Photo supplied)

Boon Vanasin, chairman of Thonburi Healthcare Group Plc (THG), has been accused of spreading fake news and stock manipulation involving his talks about buying 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

Achariya Ruangratanapong, head of a non-government crime victims aid group, filed the complaint with the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau (CCIB) on Thursday.

He accused Dr Boon of breaking the computer crime law when he said he could acquire millions of doses of the vaccine to serve customers of his group of hospitals.

Dr Boon refused to elaborate on the deal but later the producer denied having been in talks with THG, Mr Achariya said.

Dr Boon claimed that his group, together with many government agencies, sought to import the Pfizer vaccine, according to Mr Achariya.

The physician-businessman refused to elaborate on the progress but later mentioned a government organisation.

Afterwards, the organisation denied a vaccine deal with THG, Mr Achariya said, referring to the Defence Ministry.

Mr Achariya said Dr Boon intended to use fake news to raise THG share prices which were up by 13%.

It turned out later that THG was unable to acquire the vaccine, Mr Achariya said.

"Fake news was spread for personal gains and benefits of the group," claimed the head of the Help Crime Victim Club.

CCIB commissioner Pol Lt Gen Kornchai Klaiklueng said his division would verify the complaint and talk with related parties, including Dr Boon, before deciding whether the case had ground.

On Wednesday, THG informed the Stock Exchange of Thailand that it had never mentioned having an agreement with the Defence Ministry about the vaccine.

The statement was apparently in response to a report on the previous day by a news outlet identifying the ministry as THG’s partner in the deal.

The ministry also said separately it had no such deal with the private sector.

In the statement, THG insisted it had signed a cooperation agreement with “a governmental agency”, the identity of which will be disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The agency, however, has not placed the order. 

THG shares closed unchanged at 28.25 baht each in trade worth 81.8 million baht on Thursday.

Timeline

July 12-14: Dr Boon tells some Thai media about THG’s cooperation with an organisation in the public sector to buy 20 million doses of the BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine and, later, Novavax shots. He expects delivery of the first batch of 5 million BioNTech shots by the end of the month. He says they will be used by hospitals in the THG group, as well as other hospitals in Thailand.

July 15: THG shares jump 13.45%, or four baht, to 33.75 baht at one point, before closing at 32.25 baht each.

- Reuters reports that BioNTech has told it that it has never been in talks with THG, or any Thai juristic person, about the vaccine.

- Dr Boon says Reuters might not have known that a company could not directly negotiate to import Covid vaccines. He insists a state agency has helped importthem but does not disclose the name. He also says the agreement would be signed with a distributor soon.

July 16: THG issues a clarification to the SET saying THG has agreed to buy the vaccine and is currently in the process of filing documents with an overseas distributor.

- Dr Boon no longer gives interviews, saying the SEC told him not to.

Aug 3: A news outlets reports the Defence Ministry was the partner of the deal.

- Defence Ministry spokesman denies the news.

Aug 4: Dr Boon tells a news programme he had little hope left for the deal, saying the odds of the deal being scrapped are 90%. He also says he has never contacted the Defence Ministry.

- THG shares fall below 30 baht each for the first time in 13 days.

- SEC asks THG to clarify the alleged Defence Ministry deal.  

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