House reopens bribery case

House reopens bribery case

Prosecutors quizzed on Sakulthorn's role

The House's committee on law and justice will summon a public prosecutor in for questioning to find out why the department did not indict Sakulthorn Juangroongruangkit, a younger brother of politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, for his involvement in a case in which two people were jailed for taking bribes.

Citing the 2019 ruling on the case, Sira Jenjaka, MP of the Palang Pracharath Party said in his capacity as chairman of the committee that Mr Sakulthorn was clearly implicated in a criminal court verdict that stated he paid 20 million baht to two convicts -- one of whom was an official from the Crown Property Bureau -- in the hope to secure a concession on a prime 12-rai plot in the Chidlom area of central Bangkok, one of the capital's most expensive districts.

The two men were each jailed for three years without the possibility of parole, a sentence they did not appeal. Mr Sakulthorn is the chief executive of Real Asset Development.

"The ruling clearly showed Mr Sakulthorn had paid bribes on three occasions -- 5 million baht, 5 million baht and then 10 million baht, to both, despite the fact they actually weren't ones with the authority to approve the concession," said Mr Sira.

"Both admitted to the crime and have been jailed. But why has Mr Sakulthorn never been charged?" asked Mr Sira.

The bribery case was sent to the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases, which in November 2019 convicted Prasit Aphaiphoncharn, a Crown Property Bureau official, and Surakit Tangwithoowanich, for taking bribes and forging documents while acting as a land-lease deal middleman.

Both were found to have been in contact with Mr Sakulthorn and were said to have convinced Mr Sakulthorn they could help him bypass the Crown Property Bureau's land-leasing process in return for a payment of 20 million baht.

The court found them guilty of fabricating documents to try to trick Mr Sakulthorn into paying them money.

The court verdict, dated Nov 27, 2019, read that Mr Sakulthorn had paid money three times to defendants. "The first payment is 5 million baht, and after receiving [forged] documents, Mr Sakulthorn then paid 5 million baht and another 10 million baht to both defendants to process the land lease and pay the money to the deputy director of the Crown Property Bureau, who is also a state official, in a bid to influence this official to make a favourable decision in granting a land lease to the Real Asset Development company, without entering the official bidding process," according to the court.

Pol Maj Gen Suwat Saengnum, commissioner of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), told media on Tuesday that the CSD is continuing to investigate into Mr Sakulthorn's alleged involvement. He explained that only the two convicts had been charged and then prosecuted because the investigators separated the whole case into two -- bribe takers and bribe givers.

Pol Maj Gen Suwat added that it takes quite a lot of time to trace the money trail of this case and to secure solid evidence before any other suspects can be charged. Asked if CSD investigators plan to summon Mr Sakulthorn in for questioning anytime soon, Pol Maj Gen Suwat said not at the moment.

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