Cops nab school chief for graft

Cops nab school chief for graft

A Bangkok school director has been suspended for allegedly extorting money from a supplier of student lunches and keeping it in his office.

The director is accused of demanding a one-time payment of 329,000 baht plus 9,000 baht a month from the 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 the police about the financial burden the suspect imposed, and police then arranged for a sting operation, he said, adding police had the contractor hand over the money on Wednesday before making an arrest.

Paitoon Phumchor, 58, who was newly appointed as director of Bangchan School in Klong Sam Wa district, was arrested that evening, said Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat Pankaew, commander of the Anti-Corruption Division.

The suspect made his first demand in November, he said, noting the cash prepared for the sting operation was found in the suspect's office.

Mr Paitoon denied the allegation, saying he met the contractor on Wednesday to discuss complaints about the quality of student lunches, Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat said.

Regarding the money in the office, the suspect said the vendor might have mistakenly left the cash envelope on his desk, Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat said.

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

The office received complaints about corruption surrounding lunch programmes at many schools, he said.

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

Mr Paitoon was reportedly later released after posting bail of 400,000 baht.

Investigators are expected to call upon Mr Paitoon again once they've finished their investigation. After that meeting, the probe is expected to be handed over to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

According to Pol Maj Gen Jaroonkiat, the evidence against the suspect includes the cash envelope and videos of the exchange and negotiations between Mr Paitoon and the contractor, which led to the suspect's arrest.

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