Probe into stolen B13m fund deepens

Probe into stolen B13m fund deepens

More officials may have been involved

The Social Development and Human Security Ministry is investigating how many officials were involved in the embezzlement of 13 million baht set aside for the disabled, a senior ministry official said yesterday.

Secretary of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security Patcharee Arayakul reportedly launched the probe following the arrest of Pisal Sukjaitham, a C-6 official, by police in Mai Sai district of Chiang Rai on Sunday. He is accused of stealing 13 million baht between June and August.

Ms Patcharee said the 41-year-old official had been suspended from the civil service to clear the way for the investigation. It is suspected that other sums may also have been channelled to him in months outside of the period in question.

The permanent secretary said the probe was also being expanded to find if any other officials had colluded in the illegal act.

The suspect is one of the officials in charge of finance at the ministry's Department of Empowerment of People with Disabilities (DoEPD) who had access to the ministry's financial accounts. He allegedly used this access to transfer 13 million baht budgeted for disabled people affected by Covid-19 into his own accounts.

All his assets have been frozen, she said.

Department director-general Saranpat Anumatratchakit told reporters officials detected the problem after checking transactions on Sept 13 and filed a complaint with Phaya Thai police. The Anti-Corruption Division of the Royal Thai Police later took up the case.

The Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct issued an arrest warrant on fraud charges for Mr Pisal on Friday.

Police believe he was planning to cross the border to Myanmar when he was apprehended. He was taken to Bangkok for questioning.

Yesterday, Phaya Thai police charged him with embezzling money and abusing his authority as a state official. He was subsequently questioned by investigators before being remanded in detention at the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases.

According to the police, Mr Pisal confessed to the crime. He said he had embezzled the fund over a period of three months, saying that he had spent all the money gambling online.

Meanwhile, Ms Saranpat, said Mr Pisal is well-versed in accounting know-how, having worked previously with the Comptroller General's Department.

She said the police were alerted to the malpractice and moved to have Mr Pisal's assets frozen.

The investigators were also tracing his money trail to see if he had transferred the sums to anyone else, adding at least three other officials knew about the log-in passes to the embezzled accounts, she said.

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