Deadline nears for rice suits

Deadline nears for rice suits

Statutes for scandal cases expire this year

Public prosecutors need to file the civil cases in relation to the rice-pledging scandal before their statutes of limitation expire between July and August this year, the Public Warehouse Organisation (PWO) said on Tuesday.

The cases involve alleged offences concerning 246 contracts signed between the PWO and other parties connected with the rice-pledging scheme.

Intira Phokpoonyarak, the PWO president, said on Tuesday that his agency had forwarded the cases to prosecutors twice, on Nov 30 and Dec 21.

They concern 167 contracts for rice storage and another 79 for rice quality surveys, she said, adding that the losses caused were estimated at 300 billion baht.

Compensation is being sought from the signatories over issues ranging from missing rice and deteriorated grains to unagreed rice strains being stored at the warehouses.

The statutes of limitation on these cases expire between July 3 and Aug 5, according to Ms Intira. These were set five years after the committee responsible for examining the complaints began its work. The panel was led by ML Panadda Diskul, the then minister of the Prime Minister's Office.

Regarding 884 criminal cases in relation to the scandal, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) and National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) have gradually filed them with the court.

According to Ms Intira, prosecutors have asked the PWO to supply more information about the damage incurred during the programme, including costs for surveys, fumigation, rice sacks and warehouse rental.

She said the PWO had sent letters requesting compensation and threatening to seize the Letters of Guarantee (LG) issued by banks to signatories.

"It is unlikely that the signatories will be able to pay the compensation as they need to pay between one billion to nine billion baht each," said Ms Intira.

Some signatories were reported to have petitioned the court to issue an injunction against payment as they claim ML Panadda's panel lacked credibility.

Others have filed suit against the PWO for failing to pay for warehouse rent and fumigation.

Meanwhile, Chukiat Opaswong, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, expressed support for expedited proceedings in relation to the cases.

"This will serve as a deterrent for those who may consider committing similar wrongdoings in the future," said Mr Chukiat.

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