Car import scam hits government

Padermchai's son tied to luxury vehicle blaze

The son of Labour Minister Padermchai Sasomsap has been linked to a suspected luxury car tax-evasion scam. Licence plates registered in the son's name were retrieved from the charred wreckage of a white Lamborghini, one of six cars found on the back of a transporter lorry when it caught fire in Nakhon Ratchasima on Wednesday.

However, Mr Padermchai said Monday the licence plate number Chor Lor 6217 was the old licence plate number for his son's car.

His son had stopped using that number and had switched to a new one years ago, but the car dealer involved had not updated the information about the new owner of the Chor Lor 6217 plate, the minister said.

"My son and I learned about the matter and laughed because he hasn't used that licence plate number for a long time. Police inquired about it and my son already explained. Today, my son's car is parked at the Labour Ministry and it does not bear the 6217 plate number," said Mr Padermchai.

He insisted his son had nothing to do with the burnt luxury car and that his son's car was registered legally.

Mr Padermchai's son drives a white Lamborghini Gallardo bought in 2006.

DLT deputy director-general Asdsathai Rattanadilok Na Phuket said officials found Chor Lor 6217 Bangkok and Yor Yor 1000 Bangkok licence plates in the luxury car fire incident.

Both plate numbers had been reported for cancellation of use and there had been no request to reuse either of them.

Mr Asdsathai said an initial investigation found irregularities with the registration of luxury cars in Si Sa Ket.

Fourteen luxury cars have been registered in the northeastern province since last year, including seven this year.

Two DLT officials in Si Sa Ket have been transferred to inactive posts as the probe widens. He has transferred Danai Khote-asa, chief of the DLT's Si Sa Ket branch office, to an inactive post in Bangkok, along with Natpat Jantajaem, chief of the vehicle inspection division at the DLT's Si Sa Ket branch.

Mr Asdsathai said evidence indicated Mr Danai failed to impose DLT regulations on vehicular checks and registration. Mr Danai denies wrongdoing.

A DLT probe sub-committee is looking for other officials involved in suspicious car registrations. Checks on the registration of luxury cars are under way at DLT provincial offices nationwide.

The luxury cars in the fire on Wednesday were equipped with gas cylinders and appeared to have their engines converted for gas consumption.

Transport Minister Chadchat Sittipunt said Monday the DLT had to check if such luxury cars could really run on gas.

Pol Lt Col Korrawat Panprapakorn, director of the Department of Special Investigation's (DSI) Bureau of Regional Operation Centre, said luxury cars could not run on gas. The Lamborghini in the car fire had been smuggled into the country and was among three smuggled Lamborghini cars that the DSI was tracing.

He also said although some luxury cars worth 30-40 million baht each were declared as locally reassembled cars for registration purposes, actually there was no high-technology equipment in Thailand to facilitate such reassembly.

DSI director-general Tarit Pengdith said Monday 18 people were involved in the import and possession of the Lamborghini found in the fire.

Mr Tarit said a company called Dharma Motor Rich Co, owned by Pornpimol Khehathan, sought the registration of the Lamborghini as a locally reassembled car. Sukanya Sombatdee was identified as the buyer of its engine and TAN Express was reported as its importer.

Officials of the DLT, the Revenue Department, the Excise Department and an engineer who certified the gas cylinder installation in the car were also involved.

Mr Tarit believes the six luxury cars in the fire had been equipped with gas cylinders in a bid to evade high taxes.

The DSI has taken over the probe from local police as the cars were thought to be involved in tax evasion.

Related search: Labour Minister, Padermchai Sasomsap, licence plate, Lamborghini, tax avoidance, scandal, corruption

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Writer: Amornrat Mahitthirook