THAI wants more time on bribe probe

THAI wants more time on bribe probe

Thai Airways International (THAI) has asked to extend its investigation into the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal involving former executives to the end of this month, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittiyapaisith said.

The national carrier said it needs until that long to wrap up the probe, which is a few weeks longer than expected, according to Mr Arkom.

He said THAI has not provided him with any progress reports.

The final report might focus on details about engine procurement for the airline's planes during the periods when the bribery took place, he said.

In statements given to Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Rolls-Royce admitted to paying about 254 million baht to individuals to help it secure a deal with the Thai government to purchase Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines for six Boeing 777 aircraft and Trent 500 engines for seven Airbus A340 aircraft.

According to a statement of facts prepared in a British court, the bribery took place during periods between 1991 and 2005 and involved payments totalling about US$36.38 million (1.28 billion baht) to "regional intermediaries".

Some of the money was for "agents of the state of Thailand and employees of Thai Airways", according to the document.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is focusing its own probe on the third phase of the bribery scandal that occurred between 2004 and 2005 during the first Thaksin Shinawatra administration. Statute of limitations on probes in the earlier periods of the scandal have already expired.

Mr Arkom said Wednesday the Transport Ministry has no duty to investigate the case and it will only consider the findings from the THAI probe once it is concluded.

THAI has sent regular updates of its investigation to the NACC which also demanded detailed information about specific aspects of the engine purchase from the airline.

Meanwhile, transport permanent secretary Krichthep Simlee said the committee tackling human resources development in the aviation industry was studying ways to train more people, particularly airline pilots, to overcome shortages. He said the industry needed to produce 915 commercial pilots last year but trained only 80.

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