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The national Anti-Corruption Commission will summon four unnamed individuals for questioning next week in connection with the watch scandal involving Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan.

NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon said yesterday the NACC might as well conduct inquiries with all four people and would complete that part of the probe by March. If it finds links to other people, they would also be called in. Prawit has also been told by the agency that he has 15 days to provide further clarification over his alleged possession of luxurious wristwatches and a large diamond ring, the secretary-general said.

The NACC sent the Deputy PM a notification on Thursday, he added. Because the scandal was in the public interest and tips were flooding in, Worawit said it should be concluded within weeks.

NACC president Pol General Watcharapol Prasarnratchakit yesterday said separately that the call for Prawit to submit a further explanation was normal procedure and did not necessarily mean the initial clarification had been inadequate. Asked if Prawit had to clarify his possession of all the watches seen in the photographs on the Internet or just the Richard Mille, Watcharapol said he had to detail his reasons for possessing all of them. The secretary-general had the authority to ask for any information he needed in the case.

The development came after Prawit submitted a letter late last month to clarify his possession of several luxurious timepieces and a diamond ring. This came after photographs went viral of the Deputy PM wearing a striking diamond ring and a Richard Mille watch at a group photo of the new Cabinet. The timepiece alone could cost millions of baht.

Members of the public have questioned how a military officer who makes less than 1 million baht a year could have afforded to buy such a fancy watch and whether or not he had declared the assets when he took up the ministerial post, as is required under law.

News has been circulating that a source close to Prawit said the Richard Mille that kicked off the public criticism belonged to well-to-do homophile (a person who has a special interest in timekeeping devices) who was a long-time friend of Prawit. The source said the duo had often shared wristwatches and the Richard Mille in question had been lent by him to the Deputy PM.

The secretary-general refused to say whether Prawit had provided a similar account in the explanation letter. However, when asked what he would advise politicians who borrowed stuff from friends, Worawit responded: “It depends on the relationship. But we all have friends and we trust them, right?”

A dozen more photographs of Prawit wearing pricey wristwatches on different occasions have emerged over the past weeks. Thus far, netizens had found that the general had worn at least 15 luxurious timepieces, with a combined worth exceeding 17 million baht. The official, however, declined to disclose the number of wristwatches Prawit had identified in his clarification letter, saying only it was “as many as seen in the news”.

Worawit also announced yesterday that Prawit had been cleared of the allegation of inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money in connection with the scandal-plagued trip to Hawaii last year. Both the NACC and the Office of Auditor-General had found no irregularities after scrutinising the trip, in which Prawit and some 30 officials took an allegedly extravagant, chartered flight that served caviar as the in-flight meal. The NACC had decided to reject the complaint, the secretary-general said.

Bling, bling. Why don't you give us a call? | News by Thaiger

The NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon

 

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