WEDNESDAY, April 17, 2024

Saksayam found guilty of violating law, handing govt projects to his own company

Saksayam found guilty of violating law, handing govt projects to his own company

The Constitutional Court found former transport minister Saksayam Chidchob guilty of concealing his shares and ownership of a construction company that won many projects from his ministry.

On Wednesday, Constitutional Court judges voted 7:1, ruling that Saksayam did indeed own Buricharoen Construction Co Ltd as alleged by 54 opposition MPs.

One of the nine judges, Wiroon Saengthian, called in sick, while Judge Udom Sitthiwirattham voted in favour of Saksayam.

The court ruled that Saksayam’s status as transport minister was retroactively terminated from March 3 last year, when the court received the case for review. After the court took up the case, Saksayam was suspended from duties pending a final ruling.

The accusations against Saksayam emerged during a no-confidence debate against then-prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government. The opposition claimed that Saksayam used a nominee to run the construction firm, allowing it to secure projects from the Transport Ministry, without addressing potential conflicts of interest.

Despite the court’s verdict, no political ban was imposed on Saksayam, as the complaint lodged by the 54 opposition MPs solely sought his disqualification as a Cabinet member.

The group of MPs had petitioned then-House speaker Chuan Leekpai to forward the case to the Constitutional Court, seeking Saksayam’s removal under provisions of the charter’s Article 82 for violating Article 187 and breaching the act on partnership and shares of Cabinet members.

Though Saksayam does not face any more penalties after being retroactively removed as transport minister, political observers believe he will face additional legal challenges. They reckon the National Anti-Corruption Commission may seek his political ban for breaching the code of ethics of political officeholders and may seek the seizure of assets linked to the construction firm.

Saksayam, a brother of Bhumjaithai Party’s patriarch Newin Chidchob, hails from the Chidchob family, known as a powerhouse in Buri Ram province.

The former minister emerged from the court on Wednesday with an impassive expression and told reporters that he accepted the ruling. He added that he would await the official verdict to find out what he needs to do to comply. Asked if the ruling would have an adverse impact on his political future, Saksayam said he had yet to review the official verdict and promptly walked away.