Pheu Thai's Watana faces 50 years in prison
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Pheu Thai's Watana faces 50 years in prison

Guilty over low-cost housing scheme graft

Watana Muangsook, left, leaves the Supreme Court after posting a 10-million-baht bail. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Watana Muangsook, left, leaves the Supreme Court after posting a 10-million-baht bail. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Key Pheu Thai Party member Watana Muangsook will spend the next 50 years in prison after the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions found him guilty over his role in irregularities in a low-cost housing project.

The court found Watana guilty on 11 counts of corruption, which carry up to 99 years in prison. However, according to the law, he can only spend a maximum of 50 years behind bars for the crimes he committed.

Watana was accused of abusing power and demanding kickbacks related to the 2.5-billion-baht Eua Arthorn housing project when he served as social development and human security minister.

However, the court granted Watana a temporary, conditional release on 10-million-baht bail. He is not allowed to leave the country without approval from the court.

Also, the court sentenced red-shirt co-leader Arisman Pongruangrong, another defendant in the case, to four years in prison. The court issued a warrant for Arisman's arrest as he did not attend the ruling.

It also handed down a 50-year prison sentence to Apichart "Sia Piang" Chansakulporn, a well-known rice trader, over the housing project case.

The court sentenced three other defendants to jail terms of between 20 and 44 years, but two of them failed to show up for the ruling, prompting the court to issue more arrest warrants.

The court fined President Agri Trading Co, another defendant, 275,000 baht.

It ruled to dismiss charges against other seven defendants.

The charter says they are allowed to lodge appeals with the plenary meeting of Supreme Court judges within 30 days.

There are two separate groups of defen- dants in the case.

The first group comprises nine defendants, including Watana. They faced multiple charges including abusing their authority in violation of Section 148 of the Criminal Code, and malfeasance or dereliction of duty under Section 157 of the law.

Arisman is in the other group of five defendants.

They were accused of aiding and abetting Watana and Mana Wongpiwat, a former board member of the National Housing Authority, who is among the first group of defendants.

The inquiry was initiated by the now-defunct Assets Scrutiny Committee which was formed after the 2006 coup to handle alleged corruption cases against the ousted Thaksin Shinawatra government.

The case was then dealt with by the National Anti-Corruption Commission which forwarded its findings to the Office of the Attorney-General in Nov 2016 after deciding to implicate Watana for alleged violations of the Criminal Code.

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