Amlo set to step into women's fund fraud storm

Amlo set to step into women's fund fraud storm

Five education officials accused of B88m theft

The Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) will next week consider freezing 22 bank accounts linked to the alleged embezzlement of more than 88 million baht from a protection fund supposed to help vulnerable young women.

Amlo's legal affairs director, Witthaya Neetitham, was speaking Thursday after meeting education permanent secretary Karoon Sakulpradit to seek information on the case.

The case involves alleged embezzlement of the Sema Phatthana Chiwit Fund, which is aimed at supporting girls from poor families. At least five senior officials at the Education Ministry face an investigation into their roles in the alleged crime.

Mr Witthaya said Mr Karoon cooperated fully and the information he had gathered was now complete. The information includes confessions from the suspects, details of the bank accounts and financial transactions concerning those bank accounts, he said.

Mr Witthaya said Amlo's committee on financial transactions will meet next week to consider freezing 22 bank accounts linked to the alleged misappropriation.

All the embezzled money is expected to be fully recovered and returned to the Education Ministry, he said.

Mr Witthaya also said that those involved in the alleged embezzlement will face both criminal and civil prosecution while those who had money embezzled from the fund wired to their bank accounts will face legal action for money laundering if the money trail proves they willingly took part in the fraud.

Mr Witthaya added that the results of a disciplinary probe into a C8-level female officer -- one of the five Education Ministry senior officials facing an investigation -- are expected to be released next week.

A recent check of Sema Phatthana Chiwit Fund's accounts showed that more than 88 million baht had disappeared from the fund since 2008, Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin said previously.

A preliminary ministry probe found a total of 166.3 million baht had been approved to be awarded as scholarships, but in reality, only 77.5 million baht ever reached students.

Established in 1999, the fund received 600 million baht in initial capital raised through a special government lottery draw held on its behalf.

Following these findings, the ministry lodged a complaint with police against the five suspects who were transferred pending the results of the investigation, he said.

The ministry has also decided to lodge complaints with the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Anti-Corruption Commission, and Amlo against the suspects.

Students who are entitled to receive scholarships under the programme are being asked by the ministry to lodge a separate police complaint in case they did not receive the exact amount of money they were told they were being granted.

Mr Karoon said that the female officer, identified as Rojana Sinthee, had allegedly confessed to the wrongdoing.

Mr Karoon said a civil servant subcommittee under the Education Ministry's permanent secretary office will soon meet to consider disciplinary action against her.

Officials found guilty of a severe disciplinary violation face the sack, he said.

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