Anti-graft agency files charges against former Bangkok governor

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BANGKOK, July 25 – Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) on Monday filed charges against former Bangkok governor Apirak Kosiyodhin, now running for the post of secretary-general of the Democrat Party, for alleged fraud in the purchase of fire trucks and boats during his tenure at the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).

Sitthichoke Sricharoen, a lawyer representing the anti-corruption agency, filed the lawsuit with the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions against five persons, including Mr Apirak, former interior minister Pokin Polakul, former deputy interior minister Pracha Maleenont, former commerce minister Wattana Muangsuk, and former director of the BMA Fire and Rescue Department Pol Maj-Gen Atilak Tanchukiat.

The five were accused of malfeasance and bid rigging on the fire trucks and boats procurement project which cost nearly Bt6.7 billion.

The court is set to rule whether or not it will accept the case on Aug 24.

Mr Sithichoke said after filing the lawsuit that the Supreme Court will meet to select nine judges to consider the case, adding that the NACC has prepared sufficient evidence and presented 5,000 pages of documents on the investigation to the court.

The NACC lawyer said the anti-graft agency decided to file the charges itself as it has indicted all six concerned persons and the accused, while the Office of Attorney-General said that only some of them should be charged.

The case involves the purchase of 315 firefighting trucks and 30 boats at what is alleged to have been an inflated price. The late prime minister Samak Sundaravej was governor at the time of the purchase and Mr Apirak later signed a letter of credit.

In 2008, the NACC unanimously voted Mr Apirak — together with former prime minister Samak Sundaravej and nine others — guilty of wrongdoing and violating the criminal code in the so-called scandalous purchase in which the now-disbanded Assets Examination Committee (AEC) earlier charged that the 2003 purchase of fire trucks and boats from Austria’s Steyr Daimler Puch Co had caused the state to lose more than Bt1.9 billion.

The NACC indictment immediately prompted Mr Apirak to resign from the governorship to take responsibility.

As Mr Apirak is now a top candidate for the new secretary-general of the Democrat Party, acting party spokesman Buranat Samutarak said Monday that the NACC move has no impact on the selection process of the vacant position.

Mr Buranat said the Democrat Party supports investigation of the case under judicial procedures, adding that the resignation of Mr Apirak three years ago was his own decision to take responsibility and set a good precedent for politicians but that has nothing to do with the executive post of the Democrat party.