Ex-THAI execs eyed in NokScoot row

Ex-THAI execs eyed in NokScoot row

Former Thai Airways International executives accuse ex-THAI acting president Chokchai Panyayong (inset) with malfeasance when NokScoot budget airline was set up. (Photos by Boonsong Kositchotethana, AFP)
Former Thai Airways International executives accuse ex-THAI acting president Chokchai Panyayong (inset) with malfeasance when NokScoot budget airline was set up. (Photos by Boonsong Kositchotethana, AFP)

Former executives of Thai Airways International Plc (THAI) have petitioned the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to investigate the airline's former acting president, Chokchai Panyayong, and former directors of the board for alleged malfeasance in the establishment of NokScoot.

The petition was lodged Tuesday by Yothin Pamornmontri and Suthep Suebsantiwong, both former executives of THAI, and former Defence Ministry adviser Adm Bannawit Kengrian. It was sent via Suthi Boonmi, director of the NACC's information and special affairs office. 

In 2013, the board of Nok Airlines Plc, which operates Nok Air, approved a joint venture deal between its subsidiary, Nok Mangkang Co, and Scoot Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, to establish new airline NokScoot.

THAI held a 39.2% stake in Nok Airlines Plc. At the Nok Air board meeting, Mr Chokchai, who represented THAI on the board, voted to approve the deal despite the fact that shareholders who have a conflict of interest with the decision must refrain from voting.

The petition says the representative should have stopped the deal which formed the new airline, as it could compete against THAI. The Nok Air board also decided to extend a loan of up to 970 million baht to Nok Mangkang Co for which the THAI representative was also in agreement.

Nok Mangkang Co was registered on June 13, 2014. Nok Airlines Plc held a 50% stake in the firm and Nok Air chief executive Patee Sarasin held the rest. Both Mr Patee and Mr Chokchai were among the list of the company's founders. NokScoot Airlines Co was established in August, 2014 with a registered capital of 2 billion baht. Mr Chokchai is one of the company's executives. 

"The [former] acting president and other then THAI board of directors became the directors of the Nok Airlines Plc's board from late 2013 to October 2014. However, they failed to stop [the joint venture deal]," according to the petition. 

The petition also says that allowing NokScoot to operate flights on the same routes as THAI means it will clearly compete with THAI. The petition concludes the former THAI executives appeared to violate Section 157 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits state officers from steps that would cause damage to the state. 

Meanwhile, Mr Chokchai said setting up NokScoot was aimed at competing with other low-budget airlines, not THAI, which is a mainline carrier.

The popular routes that both THAI and NokScoot fly include Singapore, Osaka and Taiwan.


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