Relatives of the defendants broke into tears inside the courtroom upon hearing the final verdict, which ended the years-long saga.
Convicted in the dredger case were Jong-arch Pothisunthorn, former director-general of the Marine Department, the department’s former deputy director-general Second Lt Sanchai Kulpreecha, and five other former officials at the department: Second Lt Prawej Rakphan, Ittipon Kanjanakij, Danai Sripitak, Second Lt Wichet Pongthongjarern, and Panya Songjarern.
The crimes took place between 1998 and 2001, during which they had to examine products submitted by the supplier, Ellicott Company Limited, in the Bt2-billion contract to procure three cutter-suction dredgers for the department.
The Supreme Court found that all seven defendants played a role in the examination and amending of the contract in favour of the supplier. Ellicott was unable to deliver the dredgers within the time frame mentioned in the initial contract.
The highest court issued a guilty verdict and sentenced all defendants to two years in jail.
The ruling was far different from the verdict from the lower court, which decided to drop the case in late 2006.
Public prosecutors, however, appealed. In 2011, the Court of Appeals acquitted Ittipon and Danai giving them the benefit of the doubt, but sentenced five other defendants to 10 years in jail.
Following petitions by both plaintiffs and the five convicted defendants, the case went to the highest court.