Court upholds acquittal of politician on garbage charges

Court upholds acquittal of politician on garbage charges

Chonsawat Asavahame arrives at the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Dusit district, Bangkok, on Thursday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Chonsawat Asavahame arrives at the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Dusit district, Bangkok, on Thursday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

An Appeal Court has upheld the acquittal of former Samut Prakan municipal mayor Chonsawat Asavahame on charges relating to irregularities in five-year garbage collection and road cleaning contracts.

The ruling was read out on Thursday at the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases.

Public prosecutors earlier brought charges against Mr Chonsawat and Baranee Lertpaisarn, former assistant mayor, over contracts given to two companies in 2003 for garbage collection and road cleaning services for five years.

Prosecutors told the court the National Anti-Corruption Commission concluded on June 22, 2017, that both defendants violated a budgetary regulation of the Interior Ministry which prohibited municipal offices from creating a tied-over debt obligation of more than one year for non-property projects. The five-year contracts cost Samut Prakan municipality 128.7 million baht.

Prosecutors arraigned them on charges of abuse of authority causing damage to the state, which carries a penalty of 5-years to life imprisonment and/or fine up to 40,000 baht, and dereliction of duty, which is liable to a maximum 10 years' imprisonment and/or fine of 20,000 baht. 

On March 21, the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases ruled that the Samut Prakan municipality had only interpreted the Interior Ministry's regulation differently from the Department of Local Administration, and there had not been a ruling to end the legal ambiguity. Therefore, the court acquitted the defendants.

The Appeal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases ruled that it did not see any intention by Mr Chonsawat or Mrs Baranee to abuse their authority or dishonestly neglect their duties, and thus upheld the ruling by the court of first instance.

Mr Chonsawat heard the ruling at the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases on Thursday. He declined to make a comment on the case, saying he was focusing on his Samut Prakan City Football Club.

A son of fugitive veteran politician Vatana Asavahame, Mr Chonsawat was earlier released from jail after serving about one year of his 18-month sentence for involvement in municipal election fraud in Samut Prakan in 1999.


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