SEVERAL anti-graft bodies have joined forces to investigate alleged bribes involving the UK-based jet engine maker Rolls-Royce and Thai Airways International (THAI), with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordering authorities to follow up on the scandal and adopt effective preventive measures.
According to one anti-corruption advocate’s estimate, bribery in Thailand could be worth as much as Bt200 billion per year based on a commission rate of 8 per cent in one of the Rolls-Royce deals involving THAI.
At present, combined procurements by state-owned enterprises, including THAI, are worth as much as Bt2 trillion per year.
Sansern Poljiak, secretary-general of National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), said Thai officials were scheduled to hold a teleconference call last night with counterparts at the US Justice Department to gather more evidence on cases involving THAI and other state agencies, which are alleged to have received huge kickbacks from Rolls-Royce and the US-based General Cable Corp in return for signing lucrative business deals.
Besides THAI’s cumulative US$36.3-million (Bt1.3-billion) bribery cases that allegedly occurred between 1991 and 2005, state-owned PTT units as well as the Provincial Electricity Authority, the Metropolitan Electricity Authority and TOT plc all face allegations that they were involved in separate bribery cases related to the purchases of industrial engines, cables and wires from 2002 to 2013.
Sansern said more evidence from US authorities would be used to further the investigation of Thai officials who allegedly took bribes and that the NACC committee would hold a meeting after the US Justice Department call to speed up the investigation.
Prayong Preeyajit, secretary-general of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PAAC), said his organisation, the NACC, the Office of Auditor-General and the Anti-Money Laundering Organisation (AMLO) had joined forces to pursue legal and other actions against suspects in the cases.
Prayong added that AMLO’s law could be invoked if the statutes of limitations had expired in some cases.
In addition, the prime minister said he also wanted agencies concerned to close loopholes to prevent illegal payments in state procurement deals.
The PAAC chief said he is optimistic that there would be quick results from the investigations because the current management of both THAI and PTT had launched their own internal probes to complement the government’s official investigations.
Sansern said officials were gathering evidence from both overseas and domestic sources to identify the recipients of illegal payments, after which a subcommittee would be set up to build cases for prosecution.
He said investigators would confirm who was involved in the scandals based on details of the cases provided by the US and UK authorities, which had evidence based on Rolls-Royce’s internal memos and other documents regarding the exact dates of bribe payments via the company’s regional and Thailand-based agents.
Rolls-Royce and General Cable Corp have already reached settlement deals with US and UK authorities on the charges after paying huge fines and providing internal memos and other documents detailing the illegal payments.
The National Reform Steering Assembly will also apply lessons learned from the Rolls-Royce case and others to propose more effective mechanisms to prevent fraud and bribery in state procurement, according to ACM Viravit Kongsak, a subcommittee vice chairman from the assembly.
Published : January 25, 2017
By : THE NATION