NACC rebuffs CAT request

NACC rebuffs CAT request

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has rejected a request by CAT Telecom to halt its investigation into the third-generation (3G) deal between the state telecom enterprise and True Corporation.

CAT said the probe could overlap with the authority of the Administrative Court and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

An investigative committee of the NACC reiterated that its scrutiny was limited to possible criminal offences. The committee held its first meeting of the year last Monday.

Medhi Krongkaew, who heads the committee, acknowledged CAT's request was reasonable, as the Administrative Court does have some authority.

"But we explore criminal offences while the court rules on administrative control," he said.

The No.2 mobile operator DTAC filed a petition last June with the Administrative Court to consider whether the approval process of the CAT board, which allowed its executives to sign six contracts with the True group, was legitimate.

The NACC is scrutinising whether the deal breached any regulations or the law or resulted in collusion.

Those involved with the deal are being investigated to see if they breached Section 157 of the Penal Code. Section 157 criminalises the wrongful exercise or negligence of duties by government officials, an offence punishable by a jail term of 1-10 years or a fine from 2,000 to 20,000 baht, or both.

Mr Medhi said the committee planned to submit a resolution to the NACC board for consideration this week.

The contracts allowed True to provide 3G service by upgrading to a high-speed packet access network.

True claims the deals were legitimate and approved by the attorney-general. Questions arose in the industry as to why True was able to easily acquire Hutch, another mobile operator, right after CAT decided to scrap its plan to purchase the tiny mobile firm.

CAT held a 26% stake in Hutchison CAT Wireless Multimedia, the operator of the Hutch brand.

True spent 6 billion baht for the contracts, which effectively extended True Move's concession by 14 years beyond the 2013 expiry of its present mobile concession.

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