Thai Airways union to press PM for probe

Thai Airways union to press PM for probe

ACT steps in to look at Rolls bribery scandal

A Thai Airways International Boeing 777-300ER plane takes off from Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok. (Reuters photo)
A Thai Airways International Boeing 777-300ER plane takes off from Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok. (Reuters photo)

The Thai Airways International (THAI) labour union will next week petition Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to launch an investigation into the national carrier's involvement in the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal.

THAI labour union president Damrong Waiyakanee said the union will ask the prime minister to set up a top-level inquiry to examine who was involved, based on information from the UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) which investigated the bribery Rolls-Royce has admitted to.

Mr Damrong said the probe should cover all three periods in which Rolls-Royce admitted to bribing agents of the Thai state and THAI employees.

He noted that those involved in the bribery must have been high-level officials, adding that purchases of aircraft and their engines need approval from the Thai board.

Before the purchases were presented for approval by the THAI board, they also had to receive the nod from THAI executives, the National Economic and Social Development Board, as well as the cabinet, Mr Damrong said, adding that those seeking to pay bribes knew well how to proceed with the help of their lobbyists.

Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT) secretary-general Mana Nimitmongkol said the organisation will also ask the government to set up a committee comprising representatives of both the private and public sectors to investigate the case.

Rolls-Royce's Asia-Pacific regional representatives yesterday met THAI president Charamporn Jotikasathira to discuss the UK SFO findings.

The SFO revealed 12 counts in which Rolls-Royce engaged in corruption or failed to prevent bribery in seven countries -- Indonesia, Thailand, India, Russia, Nigeria, China and Malaysia.

The bribery case in Thailand involved the purchase of engines for THAI aircraft.

THAI has set up a special task force to look into the bribery while other bodies such as the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Office of the Auditor-General are also prepared to launch their own probes.

After the meeting, Mr Charamporn declined to divulge any information, and said he would give details on Monday.

Director-general of the State Enterprise Policy Office (Sepo), Ekniti Nitithanprapas, yesterday said the office which oversees all state enterprises, will also investigate THAI's involvement in the bribery scandal as the matter concerns good governance in state organisations.

A highly placed source at THAI said the THAI special task force yesterday met to discuss guidelines for the investigation, while giving assurances that the investigation would be straightforward and would not cave in to any pressure, even if it were to implicate former THAI executives or politicians.

The panel will examine facts and information from the British authorities which did not identify who was involved in the bribery, but only specified the periods in which the bribery took place, the source said.

The probe is expected to be wrapped up in seven to 15 days before being presented to Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, the source said.

According to the statement of facts prepared in a British court, the period of the scandal dates from 1991-2005 and involves a US$36.38 million (1.28 billion baht) payment to "regional intermediaries".

Some of the money was for individuals who were "agents of the state of Thailand and employees of THAI Airways". The conspiracy to corrupt involved the purchase by THAI of Rolls-Royce T800 engines, according to the document.

The scandal occurred during three periods. The first was between June 1, 1991 and June 30, 1992. Rolls-Royce agreed to pay $18.8 million to intermediaries during the period to "influence the purchasing decision".

The second period was between March 1, 1992 and March 31, 1997 when Rolls-Royce agreed to pay $10.38 million to intermediaries. And between April 1, 2004 and Feb 28, 2005. Rolls-Royce agreed to pay almost $7.2 million to intermediaries.

The source also admitted there had been talk of bribery payments when purchases of aircraft and engines were made during those periods.

The source said the acquisition process involved people with decision-making powers, ranging from government ministers and board members to executives, while planning section personnel and mechanics were responsible for preparing procurement details to be submitted for approval.

Whenever an order for the purchase of a large fleet of between 20 and 40 aircraft was approved, all eyes would be on the amount of money changing hands, the source said.

The same source also said that there were three major aircraft manufacturers in the past -- Boeing and McDonnell Douglas from America and France-based Airbus. But the competition has now narrowed down to between Boeing and Airbus.

The source also revealed that there were supporters of both Boeing and Airbus among THAI board members and executives.

Meanwhile, PTT Plc, the country's oil and gas conglomerate has also set up a committee to investigate the current Rolls-Royce bribery case since other Thai companies including PTT were mentioned in the British investigation.

It stated the company bought power generators and equipment from Rolls-Royce between 2000 and 2013.

President and chief executive officer Tevin Vongvanich said he had set a deadline for the investigation to be completed within 30-90 days.

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