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Thai Supreme Court upholds 50 year prison sentence for ex-tourism chief

Caitlin Ashworth

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PHOTO: Nation TV

The Supreme Court upheld the decades long prison sentences for the former Tourism Authority of Thailand governor and her daughter who took bribes from Hollywood producers for a contract to manage Bangkok International Film Festival from 2002 to 2007. The ruling puts an end to the high profile case.

The Supreme Court upheld the Appeal Court ruling from May 2019, sentencing former TAT governor 73 year old Juthamas Siriwan to 50 years in prison and her daughter 46 year old Jittisopha to 40 years in prison.

In 2009, Los Angeles-area film executives and married couple Gerald and Patricia Green were found guilty of paying bribes to the senior Thai tourism official to obtain a contract to manage and operate the annual film festival, according to a statement by the United States Department of Justice.

Juthamas and Jittisopha weren’t indicted until August 2015 for demanding and receiving bribes from the American producers. The Bangkok Post says in exchange for the bribe money, they awarded the couple with a 60 million baht contract to organise the film festival from 2002 to 2007. They opened accounts at several foreign banks to launder the $1.8 million USD paid by the Greens.

The mother and daughter were sentenced to prison in 2017. Last year, the Appeal Court reduced Jittisopha’s sentence because she was not involved in bribery in the 2007 festival, cutting her prison time from 44 to 40 years. The Supreme Court confirmed the Appeal Court sentencing, putting an end to the case.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | US Department of Justice

 

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Monday, November 16, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    But are they actually in jail?

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Monday, November 16, 2020 at 6:27 pm

      Apparently very much so.

      In the US, the Green’s, who paid the bribes, were sentenced to 6 months in prison. Oops …..

      • Avatar

        EdwardV

        Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 1:05 am

        Come on John, that’s being slightly disingenuous on your part. Should the Greens have gotten a longer sentence of course. However it’s one thing to be a government official and demand a bribe. A completely different thing to be a private citizen and to have it thrust upon you. Most countries don’t punish their citizens for paying a bribe in a third country, the US actually seeks those out to prosecute.

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 11:12 am

          Hardly disingenuous.

          The Green’s made over $12 million from the arrangement and they spent a couple of months in jail and were fined $250k.

          … and, FWIW, a number of countries actively prosecute similarly, certainly including the UK and Aus.

          • Avatar

            EdwardV

            Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 11:49 am

            You didn’t write anything that actually disagrees with what I wrote. The Feds threaten people like the Greens so they flip and they can get the public officials. The so called big fish. In doing so they give them light sentences. Just happens those public officials are in this case are Thai. The idea the Greens should have gotten anything near what Thailand handed out is absurd. That’s not how things work in America. It would be hard to give them a heavy sentence when everyone who did something similar got a light one. The judge would just be asking to get the sentence part overturned.

    • Avatar

      Jim kelly

      Monday, November 16, 2020 at 7:14 pm

      I BET THE ANSWER IS “no!!” THE WHOLE FECKING COUNTRY IS CORRUPT LIKE A ROTTEN APPLE!!

      • Avatar

        preesy chepuce

        Monday, November 16, 2020 at 9:49 pm

        It’s interesting when you hear about senior people in some developing countries being convicted of corruption. It makes you wonder whether there’s more to the story.
        Don’t people normally just trade in art to transfer large dollops of money internationally?

      • Avatar

        Issan John

        Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 12:32 am

        I’LL TAKE THAT BET!

        They were never given bail during their appeal but have been in jail since first being sentenced.

        As for the Green’s, they were released in the US after two months to enjoy the millions of dollars they’d made from it which they were allowed to keep.

        That would make at least some people wonder which “WHOLE FECKING COUNTRY IS CORRUPT LIKE A ROTTEN APPLE!!”

        ….. or maybe not …..

        • Avatar

          EdwardV

          Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 9:15 am

          John, please don’t equate the two punishments. It only makes you look like a Thai apologist. It’s the classic “yeah but what about them” argument. The Thai official had a sworn duty to protect the country and its people. The Greens had no such obligation. Fact is in most countries the Greens wouldn’t have even been prosecuted, it’s just considered a cost of doing business with a country like Thailand. Had the Greens paid a request bribe to a US official, they would probably be doing 3-5 at Club Fed. If the Thais don’t like the punishment handed out by America, they should have spoken up at sentencing or asked for an extradition (don’t know if the two countries have such a treaty, but the lack of one has never stopped a country from demanding anyway).

  2. Avatar

    Jesus Monroe

    Monday, November 16, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    50 years…….Is the Thai judicial system getting a bit soft in their old age.

    • Avatar

      maxcorrigan

      Monday, November 16, 2020 at 9:13 pm

      Would’nt think at their ages it as good as a death sentence!

  3. Avatar

    Khun plastic

    Monday, November 16, 2020 at 8:44 pm

    Unusual for folks to be put behind bars just for putting a few baht commission in the handbag.
    Are they related to square head in some way?

  4. Avatar

    James

    Monday, November 16, 2020 at 9:13 pm

    I bet after the 40 and 60 year sentences are over they will have learnt their lesson and never do it again.

  5. Avatar

    David Mc

    Monday, November 16, 2020 at 10:03 pm

    I’m glad that these two were sentenced, perhaps the sentence was a tad severe though. Something tells me that if they had been a father and son duo, the results would have been much less severe. Still, when a Billionaire’s Grandson is able to flaunt his freedom from killing a Law Enforcement Officer, while having a suspected Central Nervous Stimulant in his blood test results, Thailand has a long way to go before it achieves “Justice.”

  6. Avatar

    James Pate

    Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 2:16 am

    I’ve been following this case fairly closely since the beginning. She is the highest level Thai public official to get a long sentence like this. Last time I checked, the 60m baht in bribes were still frozen in foreign accts and not yet returned to the Thai people. Any update on that?

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 12:28 pm

      In May last year “the Appeals Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases cancelled the earlier order to seize Bt62 million found to have been earned dishonestly, saying the public prosecutors did not make the request.”

      It couldn’t actually be “returned to the Thai people” as it didn’t come from them, but was the bribe from the Green’s to the Siriwan’s in return for the contract; it could have been very difficult to freeze or seize the money since it was known to be in a number of different names abroad, in a number of different countries.

      • Avatar

        James Pate

        Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 5:56 am

        Actually, in the corresponding FCPA case in the US, the judge ruled that the Greens and the 2 Thai women were jointly and severably liable to return the money to the Thai people. AMLO and some other Thai agencies, such as the SEC, can keep some of the monies they seize to fund that agency and not deposit them in the general fund. Thus, self-funding that agency, and reducing its burden on taxpayers. Accounts have already been identified and frozen in Singapore, Ireland, UK, Jersey and, Switzerland. That’s a done deal. Funds can be released upon court order. Yes, it’s a complicated and lengthy affair. As I understood it, the Public Prosecutor’s omission to requst the money could be remedied. I had imagined that the convicts were angling for reduced sentences in exchange for their cooperaton; albeit a bit late in the game and probably unworkable. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  7. Avatar

    Issan John

    Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 12:10 pm

    Ed V, I’m not defending Juthamas and Jittisopha in any way, particularly with a “classic “yeah but what about them” argument.”

    I simply pointed out the yawning difference in the two punishments since Toby A suggested that the two Thais may not even be in jail at all.

    I’m very surprised, though, that you’re jumping to the Green’s defence so strongly to the point of suggesting that they did nothing wrong and “it’s just considered a cost of doing business with a country like Thailand.”

    The Green’s broke the law in both Thailand and the US, willingly, knowingly and deliberately, and they got away with it serving a couple of months in jail and paying a token fine, and being allowed to keep the $13.5 million they made from the deal. They were the ones who made the main profit from the deal.

    As for Juthamas and Jittisopha having “a sworn duty to protect the country and its people” I think that may be taking the job description a bit far. Juthamas was the TAT director so she clearly abused her position and should be held to a higher standard, but her daughter Jittisopha wasn’t a government official employee at all and simply paid the money into foreign bank accounts.

    I’m curious. If you think it’s acceptable to break the law in a “third country” as the Green’s undoubtedly did, where do you draw the line? Bribery’s OK, so how about drugs? Rape or child abuse?

    • Avatar

      EdwardV

      Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 1:25 pm

      No and in fact in the first post I was quite clear in saying they should have gotten a longer sentence. I never once defended them, only took issue with you continually throwing them out there to deflect away from the main culprit. In the US, it’s not usual to see people in this situation (where a bribe is demanded) to get 1-3 years. I’m assuming since the crime was actually committed in thailand and to get the offending Thai official to the US for a trial would have been difficult to say the least. It would only make sense the jail time would be reduced because of that. Federal prosecutors don’t make their bones by handing out light sentences, something outside their control made that happen.

      • Avatar

        Issan John

        Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 2:33 pm

        Well, Ed V, in that case we both appear to have somehow completely misinterpreted each others’ comments.

        To you I’m “continually throwing them out there to deflect away from the main culprit”, even though I’ve never done any such thing and my original comment was no more than a passing aside to the question of whether the Siriwan’s were actually in jail.

        On the other hand you’ve chosen to defend the Green’s with every comment, even here overlooking that the Siriwan’s made US$1.8 million from the deal while the Green’s made US$13.5 million which they’ve kept and are now free to spend!

        As for the prosecutors wanting to “flip” the Green’s, hence the abssurdly light sentence, this has as much validity as your comment that the Siriwan’s had “a sworn duty to protect the country and its people” when Jittisopha wasn’t even working for TAT! All the evidence in both the US and Thailand came from a whistleblower, so there was no “flipping” involved, and the Green’s could have got up to 20 years for the money laundering charges alone. Maybe a little more homework on what actually happened wouldn’t go amiss …

        • Avatar

          EdwardV

          Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 3:17 pm

          Homework is right. The contract was $13,5 million, the claim they made that much is absurd. You have to pay for the actual cost of the events out of that along with the bribe in question and any others bribes that most assuredly would have to be made to do business in Thailand. What they “made” would have been a fraction of that amount. Honestly if not deflection I’m at a loss of why you keep bringing up their light sentence. Oh well just more Thai apologies I guess. Par for the course.

        • Avatar

          James Pate

          Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 6:04 am

          Mr. Green is dead. He was released early on house arrest on compassionate grounds. As there was no one home to take care of him, the Fed. Court also released Mrs. Green, who is also elderly, to house arrest. After the fines, civil penalties and lawyers’ fees, she is not exactly living the high life.

  8. Avatar

    Issan John

    Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 7:25 pm

    Definitely more homework required, Ed V.

    The reported profit was 13.5 mill. If the contract was 13.5 and they had to pay 2 mill to get it and then to run the event for six years, covering all the costs,they’d have made a considerable loss.

    I don’t “keep bringing up their light sentence”.

    I mentioned it in passing when asked if the Siriwan’s were actually in jail, and since then you’ve fixated on it as all being perfectly justifiable for the Green’s, that they “flipped” to give evidence, and that if they hadn’t been in the US it wouldn’t have mattered.

    You seem to think they shouldn’t have been tried at all and found guilty of not only bribery but tax evasion and money laundering (as they were, on all counts) and that it’s all perfectly acceptable because they’re septics.

    Bizarre doesn’t begin to describe it.

    • Avatar

      EdwardV

      Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 1:56 am

      John you are still not getting it. You are equating the two punishments but that can’t be done. The Thais were charged with breaking thai laws and punished accordingly. The Greens were charged with braking American laws and punished accordingly. America didn’t charge them with breaking Thai laws so there is no equivalents. Since you feel the need to speak for Thailand and the injustice done by the American justice system, wouldn’t it make sense in that case for Thailand to charge and ask for them to be extradited? Let’s not forget this is the same country that wanted to put someone away for 10 years because of a online review. Excuse me if I not impressed by their level of punishment standards.

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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