Former culture minister and Pattaya mayor Itthiphol Kunplome, facing an arrest warrant for malfeasance in connection with the approval of a controversial condominium development in Pattaya in 2008, has reportedly contacted authorities to surrender.
Niwat Kasemmongkok, secretary-general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), on Friday said he learned that Mr Itthiphol was looking to give himself up.
“But I don’t know which agency the former culture minister will turn himself in to. Maybe a court? This is because the court issued a warrant for his arrest,’’ Mr Niwat said.
Mr Itthiphol, 50, was wanted under an arrest warrant issued by the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases Region 2 on Sept 5 in connection with illegally issuing a permit for the construction of the Waterfront Suites & Residences in Pattaya on Sept 10, 2008, when he was the mayor of the resort city in Chon Buri. Bali Hai Co was the project owner.
The NACC had sought court approval to arrest Mr Itthiphol and two others — Pichet Uthaiwatthananon and Witthaya Sirinvorachai — for malfeasance and dereliction of duty in violation of Section 157 of the Criminal Code.
Mr Itthiphol fled the country after learning that a warrant would be issued for his arrest early this month — just days before the 15-year statute of limitations on the case expired. He left the country via Suvarnabhumi airport to Cambodia on Aug 30. The two other suspects had fled the country on Sept 3, two days before the warrants were issued for their arrest.
Authorities subsequently sought a legal interpretation which allowed them to seek an open warrant as the expiry of the statute of limitations no longer applies to someone who is fleeing an arrest warrant.
Mr Itthiphol served as the culture minister in the government of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. He is a younger brother of former Pattaya mayor Sonthaya Kunplome and a son of the late Chon Buri gangster Somchai Khunpluem. The family dominated politics in the province for decades but the Move Forward Party took seven out of the 10 seats there in the last general election.
The Waterfront condominium was designed to have 57 floors on two rai of land at the foot of Khao Phra Tamnak hill, adjacent to Pattaya Bay and Bali Hai Pier.
The project was challenged over its design and the status of the land on which it was built. The incomplete building has already been odered demolished.