Politicians likely involved in PTT bribes, NACC says

Flashback: The private sector's Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT) sponsored a public discussion of the Rolls-Royce bribery case last month but reached no conclusion. (Post Today photo)

Politicians are likely to have had a hand in a kickback scandal where British engineering giant Rolls-Royce allegedly paid bribes to state-owned natural gas and oil firm PTT Plc, according to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

NACC secretary-general Sansern Poljeak said the agency is gathering facts behind the allegation that some US$11 million (388 million baht) was paid to the energy firm in return for contract awards for equipment and aftermarket products and services.

He said the kickback allegation against PTT Plc is similar to the one against Thai Airways International (THAI) in that politicians and former executives are allegedly involved in the corrupt commission payments.

The NACC is expected to decide late this month if a committee will be set up to look into the suspected kickbacks, he said.

The information related to the Rolls-Royce bribery allegations against PTT was unveiled by the United States' Department of Justice in the wake of the graft claim against the national carrier which was disclosed by Britain's Serious Fraud Office.

The NACC earlier decided to investigate the bribery allegations against THAI in which 26 former Thai cabinet ministers and executives of THAI were implicated.

Mr Sansern said the three-member panel set up to investigate the Rolls Royce-THAI bribery scandal will this week discuss the scope of the investigation and related issues such as the summoning of witnesses to give more information.

He said the inquiry will proceed swiftly and, if the agency comes up with strong evidence against anyone during the process, it will press charges and summon them to answer the charges.

According to a statement of facts prepared in a British court, the period of the bribes dates from 1991 to 2005 and involves payments totalling about US$36.38 million to "regional intermediaries". Some of the money was for "agents of the state of Thailand and employees of THAI Airways", according to the document.

The NACC will focus on the third period involving an aircraft engine purchase contract signed and implemented between April 1, 2004 and Feb 28, 2005 as the statute of limitations for the probes into the first two rounds of the bribe payments has already expired.

At the time of the third round of alleged payments in the scandal, THAI executives at the helm included former THAI president Kanok Abhiradee and former THAI board chairman Thanong Bidaya, as well as former deputy transport minister Vichet Kasemthongsri who oversaw THAI, and ex-transport minister Suriya Juengrungruangkit.

Earlier, the NACC said it needed the help of advisers to help look into the Rolls Royce bribery scandal.

The NACC wanted experts, from both within and outside the organisation, to help take the investigation further, according to Mr Sansern.

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