By Piyanut Thamnukasetchai
PROPERTY tycoon Anant Asavabhokhin has denied money-laundering charges and asked for 60 days to present his defence.
Anant, who quit his top post at Land and Houses Plc in the wake of the scandal, said yesterday he was confident he would be able to clear his name.
The charges against him are related to embezzlement at the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC), which has already sent KCUC former chairman Supachai Srisupa-aksorn to jail.
“I don’t know Supachai in person. I just met him at Dhammakaya Temple. Outside the monastery, we have never had any contact. We have never discussed business,” Anant said.
Supachai allegedly used KCUC funds to take over a firm to acquire plots of land, one of which was sold to Anant for Bt93 million – far below its reported market value.
Anant later sold it to a buyer for Bt492 |million and donated Bt303 million to Dhammakaya Temple. The land plot is near the temple in Pathum Thani province.
“I will assign my lawyer to clarify everything,” Anant said after reporting to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) yesterday to acknowledge the charges. “I don’t know the details of the transaction.”
Anant and his lawyer spent more than three hours at DSI headquarters, during which he met with DSI deputy chief Pol Lt-Colonel Korrawat Panprapakorn and prosecutor Kachornsak Buddhanuparp.
Working for the Office of the Attorney-General, Kachornsak said because Anant answered the DSI summons quicker than scheduled, he was released without any condition.
“We have not required any bond. Neither have we barred him from travelling overseas,” Kachornsak said.
He said Anant had been accused of wrongdoing but had the legal right to defend himself.
“But I can tell you that we have found convincing evidence against him,” he said.
Anant’s lawyer, Kamol Srisawat, said he would submit a defence to the DSI within the 60-day timeframe, after which a press conference would be held.
“At this point, I will not confirm whether the land has been sold. Nor will I confirm either whether the price is really three times lower than the market price,” the lawyer said.
A source at the DSI said Anant had been asked to answer 20 questions.
“But he said he would need time to provide the answers, as he had to assign his lawyer to gather documents and evidence to substantiate his answers and rebut the charges first,” the source said.
Alisa Asavabhokhin, Anant’s daughter, is facing a separate probe in regard to her purchase of other land plots from Supachai.
Anant also said yesterday the scandal had not shaken foreign investors’ confidence in the Land and Houses Bank, where he was chairman until recently.
“When the scandal broke, the bank was in the process of raising funds. Now foreign investors have agreed to join the bank’s raising of capital,” he said.