Vatana case hits roadblock

Vatana case hits roadblock

There are no legal channels to reopen the investigation into the case in which fugitive former deputy interior minister Vatana Asavahame was sentenced by the Supreme Court in 2008 for abuse of power in a case linked to the Klong Dan wastewater treatment scandal, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin said.

He said that activist Srisuwan Janya, a well-known corruption watchdog who now serves as a lawyer representing Vatana, has submitted new evidence to convince a Justice Ministry committee to reopen the probe.

But Mr Somsak said the judicial procedures involve handling suspects before and after court trials, and imprisoning convicts and releasing them from jail. In the case of Vatana, who has not yet undergone the procedure, there are no laws to provide for a probe to be reopened into his case, he said.

"Even if the lawyer had a truckload of evidence, there are still no channels and I don't know how a reinvestigation could be done," he said.

Mr Srisuwan said on Friday the ministry had informed him that according to its regulations, a reopening is allowed once a convict has already served a jail sentence and has new evidence to present.

But Vatana fled before the ruling was handed down. As a result, he did not meet the criteria, Mr Srisuwan quoted the ministry as saying.

In 2008, Vatana was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison for forcing land officials to illegally issue title deeds under his name.

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