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Eerie hush over stolen tsunami money

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Eerie hush over stolen tsunami money | Thaiger

PHUKET CITY: Phuket Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura has warned that government officers must shoulder the burden of responsibility of their positions and accept the “sharp thorns” of a government career.

He was referring to the lingering police investigation into whether Apichart Nooprod was involved in the theft of 2.05 million baht in tsunami funds on February 15 last year.

K. Apichart, Chief of the Finance Division of the Phuket Provincial Financial Office, denies the charge, and alleges that he has not received a fair review during the investigation.

Governor Udomsak said, “[The money] was his responsibility, but something like this could happen to anyone. I have had similar experiences. As government officers we are open to this type of accusation.

“If he is found not guilty, that would be good because he will have been proved innocent, and he will have the right to sue for damages,” said the Governor.

“As for his reputation, even I, as Governor, receive complaints that can damage my image. Government officers have to walk past these ‘sharp thorns’. He has to accept the allegation because the money was his responsibility at that time,” Gov Udomsak said.

However, the Governor added, “He can continue working as normal because he has only been accused; no judge or committee has found him guilty yet.”

Apichart was initially cleared by an investigative committee of government officers, who declared that the money was missing as a result of “poor accounting” – despite police photos showing that the strong box in which the money was kept had clearly been forced open.

However, on April 22 last year Phuket police charged Apichart with being involved in the theft, but the case was moved to the State Attorney’s Region 8 Office, in Surat Thani, after Apichart filed a complaint that he was not receiving a fair investigation.

The police case against Apichart stalled after the Public Prosecutor in Surat Thani asked for police in Phuket to provide more evidence against Apichart as the prosecutor was not willing to take the case to court on the evidence given.

That was nine months ago. Phuket City Police at that time said the delay was because they were still waiting for results of forensic tests being conducted in Bangkok.

Prasert Waranasereekul, the Special Public Prosecutor in the State Attorney’s Office for Region 8, told the Gazette that he was still waiting for more evidence. “I don’t know why it is taking so long, but that is not my responsibility,” he said.

“However, with a case such as this, we have 15 years [from the date the accused was charged] to bring the matter to court,” he added.

 

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