Tuesday, July 26, 2011

5 face firetruck scandal lawsuit NACC accuses ex-City Hall leaders of graft

Pokin: Signed the agreement

Apirak: ‘Aware’ of irregularities

The National Anti-Corruption Commission has filed a lawsuit against five people including ex-Bangkok governor Apirak Kosayodhin over City Hall's 2004 procurement of firetrucks and boats.
In the lawsuit lodged yesterday with the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions, the NACC accused the five of abuse of authority, price collusion and corruption.
The four others named in the lawsuit were former interior minister Pokin Polakul, former deputy interior minister Pracha Maleenont, former commerce minister Watana Muangsuk and the former director of the BMA's Fire and Rescue Department Pol Maj Gen Atilak Tanchukiat.
The supplier, Steyr-Daimler-Puch of Austria, was also named in the lawsuit. The company faces charges of price collusion and aiding wrongdoing.
The NACC's action came after the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) decided last year not to indict Mr Apirak, Mr Pokin and Mr Watana, citing insufficient evidence.
The NACC saw otherwise. In its lawsuit, the NACC claimed Mr Apirak, now a Democrat list-MP, was aware of irregularities in the purchase scheme.
The ex-governor authorised the opening of the letter of credit and committed the BMA to the deal.
The purchase deal was signed by then-Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej on Aug 27, 2004, the last day of his tenure. It was a barter deal to exchange boiled chickens for firetrucks.
The procurement was under the Agreement of Understanding (AoU) signed between Mr Pokin and the Austrian government on July 30, 2004.
AoU stated that the letter of credit must be opened within 30 days after the signing of the purchase agreement.
Mr Apirak signed the letter of credit when he succeeded Mr Samak as Bangkok governor.
The NACC claims the other four collaborated with each other in crafting the scheme, and in particular the AoU, which resulted in the BMA purchasing 315 firetrucks and 30 fire boats at an inflated price of 6.68 billion baht.
Inquiries showed the real value of the purchase was only 3-3.5 billion baht, excluding transportation.
The NACC said that the AoU was unlawful on several grounds. It had not been reviewed by the OAG and it violated a number of cabinet resolutions governing agreement signing and imports of goods among others and the BMA's procurement regulations.
According to the NACC, Steyr-Daimler-Puch hired a Thai conglomerate to execute a counter-trade agreement with the Foreign Trade Department. Mr Watana, then commerce minister, is related to the family that runs the company.
NACC lawyer Sithichok Sricharoen said the Supreme Court will select nine judges to review the lawsuit.
The Supreme Court has scheduled an Aug 24 hearing to decide whether to accept the lawsuit for consideration.
In a related development, the Democrat Party yesterday insisted that the indictment against Mr Apirak, who is one of the candidates for the party's secretary-general post, would not count against him in the race.
Democrat spokesman Buranat Samutarak said although Mr Apirak resigned as governor over the scandal, this was not relevant to the party.
"This is a party executive post. The case has nothing to do with the party affairs," he said.