CrimePolitics

Suthep graft case dismissed by Supreme court

Former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has been cleared in a graft case, dismissed by Supreme Court Friday. The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is to appeal against the ruling acquitting Suthep of massive corruption.

Suthep is accused of malfeasance in construction projects for police stations and officers’ living quarters more than a decade ago.

NACC chairman Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit said Friday that the Supreme Court had given the NACC until December 18 to appeal.

The anti-graft agency will meet on Tuesday to study evidence and the court’s ruling before deciding whether to proceed with an appeal.

Pol Gen Watcharapol said…

“The NACC is confident that it has sufficient evidence pointing to the alleged offences. Someone must be held responsible because the damage has been done.”

On September 20, the court acquitted Suthep and five co-defendants — three senior police officers, a construction company and its managing director. The projects were approved during the administration of then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva when Suthep was a deputy prime minister. The NACC filed the case with the court, alleging malfeasance and price collusion in government projects.

One project relates to the construction of 396 police stations, worth 5.8 billion baht (US$170 million), which was endorsed by Abhisit’s cabinet.

The two other police officers in their capacities as members of the bidding committee were charged with failing to perform their duty properly, and the construction firm was charged with failing to complete the project within the contractual deadline. Many of the police stations were left unfinished when the contractor dumped the project.

The NACC also found grounds for allegations relating to the building of 163 blocks of police flats which had been proposed along with the police stations. The same firm was contracted to build the flats, which also suffered delays.

The NACC spent about seven years investigating the case and submitted its findings to the public prosecutors, with a recommendation that all six accused should be indicted. Prosecutors, however, disagreed with the NACC, forcing the latter to take the case to the court instead.

The Supreme Court ruled that Suthep, who then oversaw the Royal Thai Police, had the authority to stage an e-auction to cover all the police stations in one single contract, without having to seek approval from the Cabinet. Pol Gen Pateep, then acting police chief, also had the authority to exercise his discretion by using the procurement method that he saw fit.

Suthep and Pol Gen Pateep Tanprasert, the former acting national police chief, was accused of wrongfully combining all regional construction contracts into one.

The contract was then awarded at an unusually low price to a single contractor, PCC Development.

The Suthep graft case was dismissed by Supreme Court when it found that the Royal Thai Police had the authority to decide how it awarded construction contracts and Suthep could not be held responsible for any malfeasance.