By THE NATION
LESS THAN a week before the Supreme Court delivers its verdict in the negligence case against ex-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) yesterday boasted about its success in seizing or freezing almost Bt13 billion in assets from offenders in a case stemming from the rice-pledging scandal.
AMLO secretary-general Chaiya Siriampankul said the case was among the 19 high-profile cases in which the agency followed a money trail and provided public prosecutors with information to seek court orders for confiscation of assets from offenders.
Over the past year, AMLO’s work has led to the seizure or freezing of more than Bt40 billion from offenders in those criminal and corruption cases, less than 10 per cent of the total estimated damages of Bt469 billion, according to the agency’s chief.
Chaiya told a press conference that one of the high-profile cases stemmed from the previous government’s rice-pledging scheme. The scandal led to more than 100 related cases involving estimated damages of Bt405 billion.
AMLO so far has managed to seize assets from people involved in only one of those sub-cases – Bt12.91 billion from wealthy businessman Apichart Chansakulporn, who is better known as “Sia Piang”, and three others, who were accused of involvement in “fake” government-to-government rice-sale deals.
The highest court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders is scheduled to deliver its verdict in Yingluck’s case on Friday.
The government-to-government rice-sale scandal case saw the highest value of seized assets. It was followed by the zero-dollar Chinese tour case, in which the operators of Fuan Travel and OA Transport had a combined Bt9.5 billion of assets seized.
Another high-profile graft case involving the Klong Dan wastewater treatment plant, saw Bt6.35 billion in assets belonging to the offenders seized. It was followed by the Wat Dhammakaya embezzlement case, in which Bt2.34 billion was seized from certain businesspeople involved with the controversial temple.
Another Bt724 million was seized from those involved in the Nataree massage parlour human-smuggling case, where many young migrant women were found to have worked illegally in entertainment venues.
AMLO was also instrumental in seizing about Bt500 million from people involved in a narcotics smuggling network led by Laotian drug lord Xaysana Keopimpha, who was arrested at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in January, said Chaiya.
The agency also played an important role in confiscation of assets from violators suspected of laundering money – including drug smugglers, embezzlers, online gambling operators, and corrupt foreign officials hiding here, said the secretary-general.
Chaiya said that Thailand has improved its performance in enforcing the anti-money laundering law and combating the financing of terrorism. At the latest general assembly of the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, a review of Thailand showed that the Kingdom achieved a score of 56 per cent, much better than the previous review in 2007, when it got 31 per cent.
Thailand was rated “high” and “highest” in 26 out of the 40 items in the review, according to the AMLO chief.
He said that in four out of the 11 areas reviewed, the country was in a “substantial level”, comparable to leading performers such as Singapore and Belgium. But Thailand still needed to improve in halting bribe taking, tax evasion, stock manipulation and contraband smuggling.