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Four BMA officials face prosecution for corruption in New Year lighting scandal

Nov 07. 2017
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By THE NATION

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THE NATIONAL Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has initiated criminal proceedings against four city officials over their allegedly corrupt roles in the much-publicised New Year lighting project.

The Bt39.5-million Motif of Light project was implemented during MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra’s term as Bangkok governor two years ago. 

However, the NACC did not conclude that either Sukhumbhand or his then-deputy Jumpol Sumpaopol were guilty of corruption in relation to the project. 

NACC deputy secretary-general Warawit Sukboon yesterday announced guilty verdicts against just four Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) officials: Pranee Sattayaprakop, who heads the BMA Culture, Sport and Tourism Department; Tawatchai Chan-ngarm, who heads the BMA Tourism Division; and Morakot Phumpanich and Sittichoke Apibarn, who work in the latter division. 

The four officials were found guilty of engaging in corruption and abuse of authority in violation of the Criminal Code and of committing grave disciplinary offences.

Six other suspects including the firm Curio Tour and Travel were found guilty of being accomplices. 

“They will face criminal proceedings. For officials, we have also forwarded our investigative report to their supervisors so that they can consider meting out disciplinary penalties,” Warawit said. 

Sukhumbhand faces new probe

In May of last year, the NACC set up a sub-committee to investigate the project. 

Eighteen suspects, including Jumpol, who approved the budget for the project, were targeted by the probe. 

However, investigators did not find any grounds to believe that Jumpol had engaged in wrongdoing. 

Nor is he among 16 suspects that the NACC will target in a further probe related to document forgery associated with the project. However, Warawit said the NACC had ordered a probe against Sukhumbhand for alleged negligence as he failed to prevent corruption. 

Sukhumbhand came up with the idea for the BMA to stage extravagant New Year lighting decorations in 2015 reportedly to promote tourism.

At that time, tourism had suffered in the wake of the deadly bomb blast that occurred at the Erawan Shrine in the heart of Bangkok. 

The NACC probe found that Tawatchai and his team had only contacted Curio Tour and Travel, with the terms of reference and scope of work prepared based on the firm’s information. 

Pranee also reduced the bidding period apparently in favour of Curio Tour and Travel, which had stated that the sale and installation of decorative lights were part of its business services just before it tendered the bid for the Motif of Light. 

Curio Tour and Travel eventually won the project. 

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