Public prosecutors refused on Thursday to accept a recommendation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to indict ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra for dereliction of duty in failing to deal with corruption and losses in the rice-pledging scheme.
Instead, the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) called for a joint panel with the NACC to re-investigate the case, saying there was not yet enough evidence to take the former prime minister to court.
OAG spokesman Wanchai Rujanawong said a subcommittee chaired by deputy attorney-general Wuthipong Wibulpong studied the NACC's investigation report and found it incomplete on three points.
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On its conclusion that Ms Yingluck did not stop the programme despite knowing of the alleged corruption, Mr Wanchai said the rice-pledging scheme was one of the Yingluck government's policies delivered to the House of Representatives as required by the 2007 constitution. The NACC failed to establish that Ms Yingluck had the power to stop the policy scheme.
Ms Yingluck: Quite a lot to smile about. (Reuters photo)
On Ms Yingluck's alleged negligence of duty, the NACC did not gather complete evidence to show whether Ms Yingluck had failed to act after being notified by the graft agency and the Office of the Auditor-General of the corruption during implementation of the scheme.
Concerning the alleged corruption, the NACC needs more witnesses who can testify where and how the corruption occurred during the scheme's implementation, Mr Wanchai said.
Moreover, when the NACC referred to a separate report by the Thailand Research and Development Institute (TDRI) concerning the alleged corruption, the NACC did not attach details, but only the cover of the report, Mr Wanchai said.
Mr Wanchai said the OAG has informed the NACC that its investigation was inadequate, and the two agencies are scheduled to appoint representatives to a joint committee to gather stronger evidence within the next two weeks. There is no timeframe for the committee to complete its work, and it is unclear how long it might take, Mr Wanchai said.
Mr Wanchai said if the case is to be forwarded to the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions, it must be clear beyond doubt where in the process the corruption took place, when it took place and who was involved.
The NACC forwarded its case to the OAG on July 17 alleging Ms Yingluck failed to deal with corruption in her scheme to subsidise rice, which led to losses estimated at more than 500 billion baht.
The NACC ruled by a vote of 7-0 there were sufficient grounds to allegations that Ms Yingluck was negligent in failing to scrap the policy, despite knowing it was plagued by corruption and losses. Ms Yingluck chaired the National Rice Policy Committee when she was premier. Her negligence would be in violation of Section 157 of the Criminal Code and Section 123/1 of the National Anti-Corruption Act.
NACC secretary-general Sansern Poljiak said it was normal for the OAG to seek more clarity and stronger evidence before submitting the case to the court.
Mr Sansern said the NACC has no problem working with the OAG on the case, and the anti-graft agency is ready to provide more evidence, including full details of the TDRI report. He said he believed the joint panel will not spend too much time examining additional evidence and will step up efforts to conclude it as soon as possible. He added this case has a 15-year statute of limitations.
Mr Sansern said the NACC can appoint lawyers representing the agency to submit the case directly to the court if the joint panel fails to conclude the case within an appropriate period.
Responding to the OAG's refusal to indict Ms Yingluck, former Democrat MP Warong Detkitvikorm, who blew the whistle on massive losses and corruption in the rice-pledging scheme, said the OAG still did not clearly explain why it chose not to indict.
Phichit Chuenban, a lawyer representing Ms Yingluck in the case, said the three points raised by the OAG are the arguments Ms Yingluck has used to defend herself, although the NACC refused to hear them.
He said the OAG has correctly identified the importance of evidence and witnesses, the keys to a complete case.
The legal team representing Ms Yingluck is ready to provide additional witnesses and evidence to the OAG-NACC joint panel, Mr Phichit said.
Ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra checks out grades of rice during a 2012 photo-op trip to the Pichai market in Nonthaburi. She now appears likely to evade corruption charges over her government's rice-pricing scheme, as prosecutors say there is not enough evidence to take to court. (File photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)