The move follows yesterday’s (Feb 27) meeting of a newly appointed joint committee fighting graft to lay down guidelines for handling transnational graft cases including the Rolls-Royce scandal involving two major state enterprises – Thai Airways International and PTT Plc.
The panel is made up of section heads of various agencies such as the Justice Ministry, the Office of the Attorney-General, the Anti-Money Laundering Office, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission and the Office of the Auditor-General.
It has been agreed the Office of the Attorney-General will be responsible for requesting documents and information from the British Serious Fraud Office (SFO) which pursued lawsuits against British manufacturing giant Rolls-Royce over corruption allegations.
Amnat Chotchai, Director-General of the International Affairs Department, the Office of the Attorney-General, said the investigation into the Roll-Royce scandal has hit a snag due to a lack of information.
It is believed the maximum penalty in the new Anti-Corruption Act, which is the death penalty in bribery cases, is posing an obstacle in getting information from various parties such as the United Kingdom because it is against human rights principles.
In mid-February, Margaret Tongue, charge d’affaires of the British embassy, said the British government is opposed to the proposed use of capital punishment against corrupt officials.
Mr Amnat said the OAG will give his assurances to foreign agencies that the death penalty provision will be dropped and those accused of involvement in the Roll-Royce bribery may face the punishment of life imprisonment instead.
Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, Chairman of the National Anti Corruption Commission (NACC) and head of the joint panel, said the prosecution has been put in charge of coordinating with the SFO to seek evidence and documents while the NACC will coordinate “unofficially” for information.
“The matter has been resolved. There will be no more problem when it comes to seeking information,” he said.
He rejected as irrelevant an observation that British authorities did not hand over information regarding the Roll-Royce bribery scandal because the Thai government is not an elected government.
Gen Watcharapol said while the NACC has gathered facts involving THAI, the agency still needs to verify some information before it decides to press charges against those allegedly involved in the scandal.
“The NACC has information about who were involved in the two first two periods of the bribery but we have to be sure before we go ahead and press charges. We are still gathering information about the third period,” he said.
The Roll-Royce bribes occurred over three periods.
The first was from June 1, 1991 to June 30, 1992 when Rolls-Royce had paid US$18.8 million (B660 million) in order to secure the engine purchasing contract from THAI.
The second was from March 1, 1992, to March 31, 1997, when Rolls-Royce had paid $10.38mn.
The third was from April 1, 2004 to Feb 28, 2005, when almost $7.2mn was paid by Rolls-Royce for the contract.
Gen Watcharapol said the NACC is handling a total of 12 transnational graft cases including the Roll-Royce scandal.
Pisit Leelavachiropas, Chief of the Office of the Auditor-General, said yesterday that his office will submit its findings into THAI’s procurement of aircraft and spare parts to the NACC, which is a core investigating agency.
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