Wissanu: Too early to pass judgement on Rolls-Royce bribery

Wissanu: Too early to pass judgement on Rolls-Royce bribery

An inquiry into Thai Airways International's alleged involvement in the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal was not an indication of culpability, said Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, arguing the national flag carrier needs time to clarify the issue.

The probe is gathering the facts to determine whether THAI was involved in the scandal in which the British engineering company claimed to have paid "agents of the state of Thailand and employees of THAI Airways" as it negotiated various deals, according to a statement prepared in a British court.

It is better not to jump to conclusions as to whether THAI was involved as "we have not even filed any charges" following the revelation, Mr Wissanu said. He was speaking as several agencies named in the court documents came forward to deny taking bribes, or a announce they had also set up their own probes.

A Thai Airways International flight approaches Phuket. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam says it is far too early to implicate the national carrier in the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal. (File photo)

Mr Wissanu said THAI's probe team needs time to gather details of the purchases and find out who was working at the company when the scandal took place more than a decade ago.

According to the British court's statement of facts, the leading aircraft engine manufacturer was involved in dubious payment of up to US$36.38 million (1.28 billion baht) during trade deals between 1991 and 2005.

THAI president Charamporn Jotikasthira said Monday the company obtained initial details from Rolls-Royce during talks late last week but still needed additional data to shed light on THAI's engine and maintenance procurement process.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said last Thursday the inquiry panel, led by Niruj Maneepan, adviser to the office of THAI president, must wrap up the investigation within 30 days.

PTT Plc, Thailand's oil and gas conglomerate, has also set up its own probe team to look into the alleged irregularities within 30 days, said Energy Minister Gen Anantaporn Kanjanarat, as it was among the Thai companies mentioned in the scandal.

Since the bribery scandal went public, many former executives have come out to deny involvement in any wrongdoing, including former THAI president Kanok Abhiradee and former PTT chief executive officer and president Prasert Bunsampan.

Wissanu: Gathering facts in THAI probe

However, PTT is taking the issue seriously, hoping its probe team, which is made up of PTT staff and outsiders, will be able to find the truth, Mr Prasert said.

PTT chief executive officer and president Tevin Vongvanich will call a meeting this Friday to discuss the issue among its board members.

Also Monday, air force commander ACM Johm Rungswang followed suit in distancing the air force from the issue, insisting on its transparent purchases.

He admitted the air force bought engines produced by Rolls-Royce and companies under the British manufacturer, but they are not T-800 engines which were used by THAI. The bribery scandal is also being investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Commission now working closely with UK Serious Fraud Office, which is handling the Rolls-Royce case, Mr Wissanu said.

The Auditor-General is also conducting a probe into the trade deals made by THAI and the PTT with the engine manufacturer.

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