Thai Airways told to pursue civil law action

Thai Airways told to pursue civil law action

'No need to extend' statute of limitations

The NACC has advised Thai Airways to pursue civil lawsuits. (Bangkok Post file photo)
The NACC has advised Thai Airways to pursue civil lawsuits. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The anti-graft body has advised Thai Airways International (THAI) to pursue civil lawsuits for damage caused by those involved in the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal.

National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) secretary-general Sansern Poljeak said on Friday said the 20-year statute of limitations for bribery cases that took place during the first two periods involving the scandal has now expired.

However, the statute of limitations for cases in the third period between 2004-2005 still stands, and THAI can still pursue civil action against those involved during this period, Mr Sansern said.

He added that the national carrier can also petition the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) to examine the money trails of those involved and freeze their assets.

Mr Sansern said there was no need for Prime Minister and National Council for Peace and Order chief Prayut Chan-o-cha to exercise his special power under Section 44 of the interim charter to extend the statute of limitations on those expired bribery cases, as this would cast the country in a negative light.

Sansern: Wants to follow money trail

Mr Sansern also said an NACC fact-finding panel can identify who was the transport minister, the deputy transport minister, and THAI officials at the time of the bribery scandal that took place in the third period, though the panel still cannot establish any connection between them and the bribery.

The NACC panel will have to wait for more information from the UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) before taking further action, he said.

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

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

The bribery occurred over three periods. One concerned the period 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.

The third period was between April 1, 2004 and Feb 28, 2005. Rolls-Royce agreed to pay almost $7.2 million to intermediaries.

THAI initiated an investigation into the bribery allegations after they were made public and the findings are due to be announced on Feb 20.

Mr Sansern also said the NACC held a teleconference meeting with the SFO on Thursday to discuss the matter.

The SFO had asked the NACC for a formal written confirmation that the NACC is the main agency responsible for handling the bribery cases.

The SFO has also asked that other agencies also send letters of confirmation that the NACC leads the probe, Mr Sansern said, while adding that the letters are expected to be sent to the SFO next week.

He said the questions the NACC will ask the SFO will cover who received the bribes, when and how.

Mr Sansern said that while the SFO has shown willingness to provide the NACC with information, it has also raised concern that there are many Thai agencies seeking information on the case. The revelation of information on the case by various Thai agencies could affect the way the SFO handles its own case, Mr Sansern said.

As well as the NACC, the Office of the Auditor-General, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission, THAI and various other agencies have all formed their own teams to seek information from the SFO.

Sangsit Piriyarangsan, the dean of Rangsit University's College of Social Innovation, told a seminar that Thailand should resort to the mechanisms under an agreement with the UN which set standards to fight money laundering and stipulates that money laundering cases have no statute of limitations.

Mr Sangsit noted that the bribery case involving THAI could involve money laundering according to the anti-money laundering standards set by the Financial Action Task Force to solve problems relating to the expired bribery cases.

Capt Kanok Thongphuek, a THAI vice-president in charge of human resources said yesterday the national carrier is ready to clarify details of the complaint filed by former THAI vice-president Yothin Pamornmontri.

Mr Yothin on Thursday petitioned Prime Minister Prayut 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, 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 had objected to it.

Capt Kanok said the company is waiting for notification from the Prime Minister's Office.

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