Tuesday, January 15, 2008

OAG's lottery panel likely to indict Thaksin

OAG's lottery panel likely to indict Thaksin

Decision contradicts findings of the ASC


The Office of the Attorney-General's two-and-three digit lottery panel has decided to indict a number of people who clearly stood to benefit from the digit lottery scheme, said an OAG source. Among those likely to be charged are ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, former finance minister Suchart Jaovisidha, his deputy Varathep Ratanakorn and the former chief of the Government Lottery Office (GLO), Pol Maj-Gen Surasit Sangkhapong.

The decision, to be forwarded for consideration by Attorney-General Chaikasem Nitisiri, contradicts the findings of the Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC), which earlier suggested that criminal charges be filed against 47 former cabinet members and executives of the GLO.

The source said the OAG's panel, however, found that other cabinet ministers did not have vested interests in the lottery scheme.

The panel will also recommend that the OAG and the ASC set up a committee to review the case, said the source.

Deputy Attorney-General Wayawut Lortrakul yesterday refused to discuss the panel's decision, saying the ASC will be informed of the decision by Jan 18.

Udom Fuangfung, who led the ASC panel looking into the controversial lottery scheme, yesterday played down the OAG's different viewpoint.

''If opinions are still divided, we are authorised to appoint our own lawyer and indict the cases by ourselves,'' he said.

An OAG source said the OAG and the ASC may have to set up a joint committee to consider the issue if both agencies have different views.

Meanwhile, the ASC yesterday pressed charges against four state officials and a company executive for their involvement in alleged corruption in the Baan Ua-arthorn low-cost housing scheme initiated by the Thaksin government.

ASC secretary Kaewsan Atipho said there was sufficient evidence to prove that National Housing Authority (NHA) deputy governor Pittaya Charoenwan and three state officials abused their power by colluding with a contractor to forge a land price evaluation.

The forgery took place during the bidding process for two Baan Ua-arthorn projects _ the 181 million baht Kabin Buri project in Prachin Buri province, and the 209 million baht Aranyaprathet project in Sa Kaeo.

The NHA had bought land from the contractor at inflated prices _ 7.8 million baht more for the first project, and 10.7 million baht more for the second, he said.

The process usually requires two evaluations from two separate consultants, said Mr Kaewsan.

The contractor, identified as Alliance Property, managed to submit only one assessment each for the two projects and NHA officials helped them by counterfeiting another paper.

A private firm which it was claimed submitted the other assessment told the ASC team that it never issued any such verification, said Mr Kaewsan.

The three officials found to be in the wrong were identified as Jetwat Wichit, Preecha Khunrak and Winai Piromdee. They and the NHA deputy governor will face malfeasance charges and criminal charges for forgery.

Tawat Tuwirat of Alliance Property Co also faces charges of collusion, he added.

The ASC last week filed charges against 14 other people, including singer-turned-politician Arisaman Pongruengrong, who has been found to have been involved in the alleged corruption in some projects of the Baan Ua-arthorn scheme.

The panel has already charged Watana Muangsook, the former social development and human security minister, with corruption for allegedly taking an 80 million baht kickback from a contractor for another project under the scheme.

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