Thanathorn defends party lending

Thanathorn defends party lending

'Loans are not income,' says Future Forward leader as EC prepares to consider case next week

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit delivers a guest lecture at the Pattani campus of Prince of Songkla University on Sept 11. (Photo from Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit Facebook page)
Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit delivers a guest lecture at the Pattani campus of Prince of Songkla University on Sept 11. (Photo from Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit Facebook page)

Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has defended his lending to the party as Election Commission officials prepare to submit the case to commissioners for consideration next week.

“Loans are not income and I already explained this to the EC when I was summoned to give information about the lending two months ago,” he said on Saturday.

If lending was considered income, he said, the universally agreed accounting standards used by companies and organisations would be affected.

He added he was not worried after activist Srisuwan Janya on Friday filed a petition with the EC, asking it to determine whether the loans extended before the election violated Section 66 of the political parties law.

Section 66 reads: “No one may donate cash, assets or other benefits worth more than 10 million baht to a political party.”

Violation is punishable by a fine of up to 1 million baht, and the court can revoke the election rights of the party leader and executives for five years. Any cash, assets and other benefits in excess of 10 million baht would go to the Political Party Development Fund administered by the EC. 

Mr Srisuwan also said he would bring a copy of Mr Thanathorn’s assets and liabilities declaration to the EC on Monday. He wants an investigation and punishment of Mr Thanathorn and Future Forward executives because borrowing is not listed as a financing activity allowed under the same law. 

On Friday, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) disclosed details of assets and liabilities reported by 80 MPs, including those of Mr Thanathorn, the country’s wealthiest MP.

He disclosed that he had extended credit lines totalling 191.2 million baht to the party under two contracts, prompting Mr Srisuwan to file the petition.

EC secretary Jaroongwit Pumma said the EC office would submit the case to EC commissioners next week.

In his declaration to the NACC, Mr Thanathorn listed Future Forward as his debtor for the amount of 191.2 million baht under two contracts made at the party’s head office and signed by Mr Thanathorn and Nitipat Tampairoj, the party finance director, acting on behalf of the party’s leader as the borrower.

Rattanon Apinan, Mr Thanathorn’s lawyer, and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, the party secretary-general, were witnesses to the contract signing.

Under the first contract for 161.2 million baht signed on Jan 2, the borrower is to repay the funds in three annual installments — 80 million, 40 million and 41.2 million baht respectively. The interest rate was 7.5% a year.

The other contract was made on April 11 for a credit line of 30 million baht. The borrower received 2.7 million baht on the signing date, with the rest to be drawn later. The borrower is to repay the sum in one year at interest of 2% a year.

Party spokeswoman Pannika Wanich explained later that the maximum credit line Mr Thanathorn extended to the party was 250 million baht, around half of which was drawn.

“As of the election date [March 24], the party had drawn 90 million baht. A little more was later drawn and as of May 20, the total drawn was 110 million baht,” she said on Friday.

“Mr Thanathorn charges the party the interest rate for long-term loans because the party is not a for-profit organisation and he does not wish to seek profit from the lending,” she added.

This is not the first time Mr Srisuwan has sought to have the EC investigate Mr Thanathorn in connection with the loans. 

In May, he accused the Future Forward leader of breaking election laws when he told a Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand forum that he had lent the party about 105 million to 110 million baht to finance its activities.

Later, Ms Pannika also told a TV news programme the party had entered contracts to borrow from Mr Thanathorn, with credit lines totalling 250 million baht with interest.

In Mr Srisuwan’s view, the transactions were illegal because borrowing was not listed as a financing activity under the law.

Section 62 says a party may have income from the following sources: original or seed funds; fees or membership fees; product or service sales; fund-raising activities; donations; a subsidy from the Political Party Development Fund; and interest from the aforementioned income.

A related argument is whether what is not listed as a type of income is allowed or not.

The EC later summoned Mr Thanathorn to give statements but no further progress on that case had been reported.

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