Police graft case not over

Police graft case not over

The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions last week cleared veteran politician Suthep Thaugsuban of corruption in relation to construction projects at police stations and police living quarters while he was deputy prime minister more than a decade ago.

The court also acquitted five co-defendants in the case -- three senior police, a construction company and its managing director.

Following the court's ruling, big questions are left unanswered: who will be responsible for the loss of taxpayers' money from the damage to the projects totalling 5.7 billion baht?

Veteran politician and former massage parlour mogul Chuwit Kamolvisit raised the corruption complaint in 2012 about the projects related to the construction of 396 police stations worth 1.73 billion baht and the construction of 163 blocks of police flats worth about 4 billion baht.

The project was approved in 2011 by the Abhisit Vejjajiva cabinet under which Mr Suthep served as deputy prime minister.

Many of the stations were left unfinished when the lone contractor, responsible for hundreds of construction sites, allegedly dumped the project.

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) initially picked up the case and it was later taken over by National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

Mr Suthep -- who led the now defunct People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) street protest against the Pheu Thai-led administration between late 2013 and early 2014 -- was accused of failing to consult fellow ministers on changes made to the contracts.

He and Pol Gen Pateep Tanprasert, former acting national police chief, were accused of wrongfully combining all the regional construction contracts into one, resulting in a single contractor being awarded sole construction rights.

The Office of the Attorney-General decided to drop the case, however. The NACC finally filed the case by itself, alleging malfeasance and price collusion in government projects from June 2009 to April 2013.

In its initial investigation, cases concerning bribery worth more than 91 million baht by some police were included in Mr Suthep's case but the matters were later separated. As a result, Mr Suthep's case focused on who was responsible for what procedures in the projects and who had authority for approving the projects.

The court found the Royal Thai Police had the authority to decide how it would award the contract and Mr Suthep could not be held responsible for any malfeasance. The court also found Pol Gen Pateep handled the project in compliance with regulations, and there was no evidence that other defendants, including police officers and the private contractor, had any vested interest.

The court's ruling is clear and proves the innocence of the defendants on the issue. However, since the bribery cases concerning construction of police stations and flats were later separated and not included in the court's trial, the NACC must explain to the public any developments in the bribery cases.

Has the money trail from the bribery cases been pursued to find those behind them?

It has been 10 years since billions of baht of taxpayers' money were put at risk if not wasted; the case must not end with no one being found guilty or taking responsibility.

By failing to find the wrongdoers, the commission will unable to claim success in its anti-corruption mission.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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