Officials slow to give statements in national parks chief graft case

Officials slow to give statements in national parks chief graft case

Police display money seized from the office of the head of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation during a search on Dec 27. (Photo supplied/ Wassayos Ngamkham)
Police display money seized from the office of the head of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation during a search on Dec 27. (Photo supplied/ Wassayos Ngamkham)

Only three of the 15 officials summonsed by police to give statements in the bribery case against the national parks chief have so far responded.

Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat Pankaew, commander of the Anti-Corruption Division, said on Wednesday that if needs be investigators would go to their offices and question the other officials there, during working hours.

He said summonses had earlier been issued for 15 officials in sections under the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP)  to give statements to investigators in the case against department chief Rutchada Suriyakul Na Ayutya.

Three officials had been asked to meet with police on Wednesday, four on Thursday and the eight others on Friday.

Only three replied that they would give their statements - one on Wednesday, one on Thursday and another on Friday. The remaining 12 had not yet responded, Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat said.

Those 12 would each be sent a second summons. If they still failed to respond, investigators may have to go to the offices where they were working and quiz them there. Police would also examine their offices.

Meanwhile, envelopes found in Mr Rutchada's office containing cash with the names of officials on the outside of them would be taken for fingerprinting and DNA testing, Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat said.

A police source said the single official who showed up to give his statement on Wednesday was a national parks official based in Pattani province. He told investigators that 100,000 baht cash inside an envelope from Pattani was rent for a Buddhist amulet and merit-making money, not bribe money. 

Mr Rutchada was arrested at his office on Dec 27 on suspicion of demanding or taking bribes from subordinates and malfeasance in office.  He was released on bail, offering 400,000 baht cash as surety.

An envelope containing 98,000 baht used as a police sting was found during his arrest, and other  envelopes containing a total of 4.9 million baht, with the names of subordinates on them, were found in Mr Rutchada’s safe.

Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, former head of Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi, filed the complaint with the ACD, accusing Mr Rutchada of abusing his authority by transferring officials who refused to pay him 500,000 baht to positions far from their home provinces.

Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat said the results of the DNA tests would point to who owned the money in the envelopes seized from Mr Ruchada’s office.

After compiling their case, investigators would submit the evidence to the National Anti-Corruption Commission. A joint investigation panel would then be set up. It would incude officials from the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission and the ACD as it was a major case that had drawn public attention.

Mr Rutchada had the right to present his side of the story, the ACD commander said. Investigators would ensure justice for all parties involved.  He urged officials to come forward and give their statements.


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