Quarantine hotel graft probe taps 6 suspects

Quarantine hotel graft probe taps 6 suspects

At least six people have been implicated in a kickback scandal involving state quarantine contracts and are being investigated by police, said the Defence Ministry.

Defence spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich said the ministry's preliminary probe had found evidence the accused had demanded "commission fees" from hotel operators in the eastern region so their facilities could be chosen as state quarantine centres.

Lt Gen Kongcheep said yesterday the ministry had submitted evidence to police for further investigation while confirming that a person with the initial "Phor" is one of them.

It is reported that the person with the initial "Phor" claimed to be a public health official and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has asked the national police chief to take charge of the investigation.

The initial of the person was unveiled by activist Srisuwan Janya, who also lodged a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the matter.

Lt Gen Kongcheep said the accused individuals acted on their own and their alleged misconduct had nothing to do with the organisations with which they are affiliated.

"Police are on it and whether or not people from the CCSA are involved is a matter for the police investigation [to determine]," said the defence spokesman.

He said the hotel operators have text messages and contact numbers of those who approached them, adding footage from CCTV cameras has also proven useful in the investigation.

Lt Gen Kongcheep said the state quarantine programme -- a joint operation between the Public Health Ministry and the Defence Ministry -- is part of the CCSA's efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

People who return from overseas are quarantined for two weeks, with 400 people allowed to return to Thailand on a daily basis under the quota system.

Hotels taking part in the government quarantine programme are granted a subsidy of 1,000 baht per day and the scheme is said to have drawn positive feedback from hoteliers facing a cash crunch after their businesses were shut down.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul denied public health officials were involved in the kickback scandal but said the ministry was ready to investigate any tips.

The minister also gave credit to health officials and workers, as well as the Thai public after the country was named one of five countries that had successfully contained the outbreak by American cardiologist Eric Jeffrey Topaul.

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