Bribe probe hits snag as NACC claims 'info dries up'

Bribe probe hits snag as NACC claims 'info dries up'

Death penalty, lack of unity prompt delays

Sansern Poljeak, secretary-general of the NACC: Investigation is complicated. (File photo)
Sansern Poljeak, secretary-general of the NACC: Investigation is complicated. (File photo)

The anti-graft agency says a lack of unity among state agencies, and the death penalty on corruption cases, are hindering its efforts at getting in-depth information on the Rolls-Royce bribery case from foreign agencies.

National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) secretary-general Sansern Poljeak said Thursday several agencies are seeking information from the US Department of Justice and the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO), and the overseas agencies may be confused as to which state agencies in Thailand are directly responsible for handling bribery cases. "The foreign agencies may not dare provide information and they may have to seek permission from their superiors, which could make procedures more complicated," Mr Sansern said.

Apart from the NACC, the Office of the Auditor-General, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), Thai Airways International Plc and various other agencies have all formed their own teams to seek more information from overseas.

In addition, Mr Sansern said the maximum penalty in the new Anti-Corruption Act, which is the death penalty for bribery cases, is also an obstacle in getting information.

The death penalty has not been accepted by foreign countries, and this could hinder efforts to seek information relating to the bribery scandals which have recently emerged, he said.

Mr Sansern argued that while the death penalty for bribery cases remains in place, in practice no one has ever been executed.

He also said a NACC working panel looking into the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal, which involved the purchase of engines for Thai Airways International aircraft from 1991 to 2005, has submited an initial report.

Rolls-Royce admitted to bribing agents of the Thai state and employees of THAI. The British engineering firm also admitted it paid bribes to PTT group.

Meanwhile, three state enterprises -- the Metropolitan Electricity Authority, the Provincial Electricity Authority and TOT Plc -- have become embroiled in another bribery scandal after the US Department of Justice announced it has taken legal action against Kentucky-based General Cable Corporation, a manufacturer and distributor of cables and wires.

In another development Thursday, former THAI vice-president Yothin Pamornmontri petitioned Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to invoke Section 44 of the interim constitution to probe the procurement of 10 Airbus A340 planes bought by the national flag carrier, which have now been grounded and "left to rot".

Mr Yothin filed a complaint with the government's complaints centre at the Office of Civil Service Commission.

Mr Yothin, a former THAI pilot, called for an inquiry into the procurement of the fleet of Airbus A340-500 and A340-600 aircraft.

The deal should be investigated for its transparency and investment worthiness, Mr Yothin said. The airline had proceeded with the purchase even though the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) had objected to it.

He said the aircraft acquisition process took place between 2002-2003 and it received approval from the THAI board and the Transport Ministry. But when the procurement plan reached the NESDB, it suggested THAI review the plan and submit a new one.

However, THAI proceeded with the purchase, Mr Yothin said, adding use of the aircraft had caused an annual loss of 3-5 billion baht for THAI, and so they had to be grounded. They are parked at Don Mueang and U-Tapao airports, he said.

There were potential buyers who offered to buy the grounded aircraft from THAI at 760 million baht each, but the THAI board turned them down because their prices were 5-6 billion baht each.

He said the aircraft were not worth the investment and the purchase might have been plagued with irregularities. He urged the prime minister to invoke Section 44 to set up a special committee to investigate the matter.

The probe should cover any alleged irregularities, Mr Yothin said.

Mr Yothin earlier wrote about the saga on Facebook, saying the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal is just "the tip of the iceberg". It is only a small part of a much bigger problem that caused damage in the hundreds of billions of baht, he said.

Regarding the purchase of the 10 Airbus aircraft, he said that Airbus manufactured only a total of 35 A340-500 aircraft. The four A340-500 aircraft that THAI bought are now lying idle, Mr Yothin wrote.

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