'Extortion' principal: It's not my money

'Extortion' principal: It's not my money

School lunch supplier asked to pay more than B300,000 to keep contract, say police

Police examine cash on the desk of the director of Bangchan School in Klong Sam Wa district of Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo supplied)
Police examine cash on the desk of the director of Bangchan School in Klong Sam Wa district of Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo supplied)

The director of a Bangkok school has been suspended for allegedly extorting money from a supplier of student lunches, while insisting that the cash found in his office belonged to someone else.

The director is accused of demanding a one-time payment of 329,000 baht plus 9,000 baht a month from the lunch vendor in exchange for renewing the latter’s contract for the current semester, said Wantanee Watana, deputy permanent secretary of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

The contractor complained to police about the financial burden and police then arranged for a sting operation. Police had the contractor hand over the money on Wednesday and then made the arrest.

Paitoon Phumchor, 58, the newly appointed director of Bangchan School in Klong Sam Wa district, was arrested on Wednesday evening. He made the first demand in November, said Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat Pankaew, commander of the police Anti-Corruption Division.

The cash prepared for the sting operation was found in his office.

Mr Paitoon denied the allegation and said he had met with the contractor on Wednesday to discuss complaints about the quality of student lunches. The vendor might have forgetfully left the cash envelope on his desk, he said.

An initial investigation found that the school director was involved in the alleged extortion alone, said Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, secretary-general of the Office of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission.

He said his office had received complaints about corruption involving student lunch programmes at many schools.

Most cases involve school officials supplying substandard meals that cost far less that the sum in their school budgets and pocketing the difference.

In October last year, the Criminal Court handed down a 385-year jail term to a former school director in Surat Thani after finding him guilty on 77 counts of malfeasance in connection with a school lunch programme.

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