Warning for judges in car tax row case

Warning for judges in car tax row case

CoJ threatens action if bribes were taken

The Courts of Justice (CoJ) have assured they will take action against any judges found to have taken bribes linked to a tax dispute involving a Thai subsidiary of automaker Toyota.

However, the office said claims without grounds that judges involved with bribery often happen during legal disputes.

The move comes in response a report that some judges might have been involved in bribery linked to a subsidiary of the Japanese car maker in Thailand, which is under investigation by the US Department of Justice.

Suriyan Hongvilai, spokesman of the Office of the Judiciary which is the CoJ's secretariat, said the case in the focus involves a tax dispute worth about 10 billion baht between Toyota Motor Thailand Co (TMT) and tax authorities over the imports of parts for Prius cars.

He said the Supreme Court's decision to review the dispute was announced on March 29 and the case is now pending hearings and has yet to be finalised.

He urged the public to investigate and not to rush to conclusions when bribery allegations against judges emerge.

"The Supreme Court has yet to hear and rule on the case. It just agreed to hear it and the granting of the request is line with laws which allow the Supreme Court to hear the case when it sees fit," he said.

Mr Suriyan assured the Judicial Commission will investigate and take drastic actions against any judges found to have taken bribes or malfeasance in office.

Allegations of payoffs involving judges are common and while many claims are bogus they undermine public confidence as soon as they surface so facts must be first established, he said.

According to Mr Suriyan, the Central Tax Court, which is the first court, ruled in favour of TMT to revoke the tax authorities' order for TMT to pay additional tariffs and taxes. The Appeal Court reversed the ruling, requiring TMT to pay the sum.

TMT then submitted a petition with the Supreme Court which agreed to hear the case, he said.

The case involves 10 billion baht and the rulings by the Central Tax Court and the Appeal Court contradict each other and the case involves an international agreement Thailand is bound to.

The clarification is in response to foreign media reports.

On March 19 Reuters reported Toyota had disclosed possible violations to the US agencies in April 2020 in its regulatory filing and that the company was cooperating with their investigations.

On March 29, Law360, a US-based legal news website, reported that Toyota conducted its own investigation into possible bribery in Thailand before it disclosed its concerns to the US officials.

The website, quoting the company documents and sources familiar with the matter, said the internal investigation focused on whether its employees made payments to any of eight Thai law firms or 12 individuals who may have played a role in the Prius litigation.

According to the website, another key question for reviewers was whether the recipients of any such payments had any connection to, influence over, or ex parte contact with sitting Thai Supreme Court judges who might rule on Toyota's case.

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