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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: NACC freezes B65mn of general’s assets in corruption probe

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: NACC freezes B65mn of general’s assets in corruption probe | The Thaiger
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– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

PHUKET: The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) yesterday froze 65 million baht of assets belonging to retired General Satien Permthong-in pending a judicial review, on suspicion that they are ill-gotten gains.

Well-known Thammasat University Professor Sombat Chantarawong’s name has surfaced in relation to the case, as Satien’s adopted daughter asked him to invest 20mn baht for her in Thammasat University’s Savings and Credit Cooperative.

NACC member Vicha Mahakun said Satien, who retired last year after serving as deputy permanent secretary of the Defence Ministry, was involved in two separate graft cases.

In the first case, the NACC found Satien to have falsely declared his wealth to conceal 14mn baht when he was a board member of the Public Warehouse Organisation from 2007 to 2008.

The NACC has forwarded this case for review to the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders.

In the second case, the checks into Satien’s asset statements uncovered unusual wealth and an allegedly unjustified money trail.

A number of asset statements were filed after 2008, when Satien served in top military positions, including as the commanding general of the Armed Forces Development Command.

While he was serving in this position, about 10mn baht was deposited into Satien’s bank accounts without any credible explanation for his sudden increase in wealth, the NACC says.

His wife Natnicha and their adopted daughter Nichapat, meanwhile, saw 100mn baht flow into their bank accounts.

A portion of these funds, amounting to 20mn baht, was later diverted to Nichapat’s thesis adviser, Sombat, who said he invested the money in Thammasat University’s Savings and Credit Cooperative.

In his statement to the NACC, Sombat said Natnicha asked him to become a nominee to help park the family’s funds.

Natnicha and Nichapat were involved in a number of land transactions, but have not been able to explain how the deals were financed, according to the NACC.

The frozen assets include five bank accounts, two vehicles and nine land plots. Sombat’s 10mn-baht investment in the cooperative has also been frozen.

The amount of the frozen assets was computed based on the value of questionable deals and concealed bank accounts.

Satien has been given 30 days to submit his rebuttals. As per the agency’s graft procedures, the NACC will form a panel to examine the rebuttals.

Should the NACC decide against the defence arguments, it will then issue its findings on the source of the unusual wealth and allegedly falsified assets.

If there is cause to suspect an offence, the NACC will activate a prosecution via the Office of the Attorney-General.

Prosecutors would then seek two outcomes: judicial endorsement to confiscate the ill-gotten gains as state property, and a guilty verdict on a charge of unusual wealth.

Those convicted of unusual wealth are subject to removal from office with retroactive effect and a five-year ban from future appointments.

The NACC last July asked the court to seize 64.7mn baht in assets from then Transport permanent secretary Suphoth Sublom, deeming it unusual wealth. This followed three earlier asset freezes amounting to about 82mn baht.

Suphoth’s assets were investigated after a gang of burglars allegedly stole 100mn baht in cash from his Bangkok home in a break-in in November 2011. Police retrieved some 20mn baht of the cash – an amount much larger than the 5mn baht that Suphoth initially reported as stolen to police.

Dubbed “Thailand’s Plato”, Sombat, 68, is a prominent political-science academic. He was recognised as a National Researcher in 1995 while serving as a lecturer at Thammasat University’s faculty of political science, where he has continued to serve as a special lecturer since his retirement.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Chulalongkorn University, Sombat earned a Bachelor of Arts from prestigious Claremont Men’s College (now Claremont McKenna College) in California, and later a master’s and a PhD from Claremont Graduate School.

— The Nation

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