‘Oak’ Shi­nawa­tra in fir­ing line

Amlo to press money laun­der­ing charges

Bangkok Post - - FRONT PAGE - KING-OUA LAOHONG AEKARACH SATTABURUT­H

The Anti Money Laun­der­ing Of­fice (Amlo) is ex­pected to press money laun­der­ing charges against Pan­thong­tae “Oak” Shi­nawa­tra and three oth­ers in con­nec­tion with the Krungthai Bank (KTB) loan scan­dal next week.

The move had been widely pre­dicted af­ter a team of in­ves­ti­ga­tors led by the Depart­ment of Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion (DSI) wrapped up a lengthy in­quiry and agreed there is ad­e­quate ev­i­dence to pro­ceed.

The DSI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the money laun­der­ing as­pect of the KTB loan has been on­go­ing for years with­out much progress un­til re­cently.

DSI chief Paisit Wong­muang said yes­ter­day the in­ves­ti­ga­tion team has con­cluded the probe and the depart­ment is in the process of for­ward­ing its de­ci­sion to Amlo. A DSI source in­sisted the case against Mr Pan­thong­tae, who is Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra’s only son, is not po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated as some might try to sug­gest fol­low­ing former prime min­is­ter Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra’s Aug 25 dis­ap­pear­ance when she did not ap­pear be­fore the Supreme Court’s Crim­i­nal Di­vi­sion for Hold­ers of Po­lit­i­cal Po­si­tions to hear the court’s rul­ing in her trial for al­leged neg­li­gence in man­ag­ing her gov­ern­ment’s con­tro­ver­sial rice-pledg­ing scheme.

The case fo­cuses on Mr Pan­thong­tae and three peo­ple re­ceiv­ing part of the 9.9-bil­lion-baht fraud­u­lent loan.

The oth­ers are Kan­chanapha Hongh­ern who was a sec­re­tary of Mr Thaksin’s ex-wife Khun­y­ing Pot­ja­man na Pombe­jra; Wan­chai Hongh­ern who is Ms Kan­chanapha’s hus­band; and Kesinee Jip­iphop who is Ms Kan­chanapha’s mother.

They face charges be­cause re­ceiv­ing as­sets from a cor­rup­tion-plagued scheme forms the ba­sis of money laun­der­ing.

The DSI has come across ev­i­dence that Mr Pan­thong­tae and the other three were re­cip­i­ents of two cheques as­so­ci­ated with the loan: A 10-mil­lion-baht cheque that was cashed into Mr Pan­thong­tae’s bank ac­count, and a 26-mil­lion-baht cheque that was linked to the other three.

The KTB loan scan­dal in­volves 9.9 bil­lion baht in loans made to sub­sidiaries of the Kris­dama­hanakorn (KMN) real-es­tate com­pany dur­ing the Thaksin gov­ern­ment.

In 2015 the Supreme Court’s Crim­i­nal Di­vi­sion for Hold­ers of Po­lit­i­cal Po­si­tions found 24 peo­ple guilty of wrong­fully ap­prov­ing more than 9.9 bil­lion baht in loans to af­fil­i­ates of devel­oper KMN from 2003 and 2004, even though the firm was listed with the bank as a non-per­form­ing debtor.

How­ever, a source close to the DSI probe said yes­ter­day a meet­ing be­tween in­ves­ti­ga­tors and pros­e­cu­tors was di­vided over whether or not to pur­sue the charge.

While those at the meet­ing agreed Mr Pan­thong­tae and the oth­ers re­ceived part of the money from the KTB loan, some thought there might not be suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to in­dict them for money laun­der­ing.

The re­cip­i­ents ear­lier pre­sented to the DSI “proof” the money was used to buy shares and in­vest in a busi­ness and the money was later re­turned and the busi­ness in­vest­ment can­celled.

How­ever, the meet­ing was asked to con­sider three points and make a de­ci­sion on each one, which led to the con­clu­sion.

The first point was to de­ter­mine if the re­cip­i­ents’ act met the cri­te­ria for money laun­der­ing. The meet­ing voted unan­i­mously on this point.

The sec­ond point was to de­ter­mine who should face the money laun­der­ing charge. The meet­ing de­cided Mr Pan­thong­tae alone was linked to the 10-mil­lion-baht cheque while the three oth­ers were in­volved with the 26-mil­lion-baht cheque.

“The third point was to de­ter­mine if they had ill in­tent when re­ceiv­ing the money from KMN and if they knew the money was part of fraud­u­lent prac­tice. The ma­jor­ity de­cided they had ill in­tent,” the source said.

The four will be sum­monsed to an­swer the charges and sub­mit ev­i­dence to clar­ify the al­le­ga­tions af­ter Amlo files the com­plaint, the source said. It should take a few weeks be­fore their in­dict­ment is sought.

Mean­while, red-shirt leader Natthawut Saikuar yes­ter­day urged fair treat­ment for Mr Pan­thong­tae, cit­ing a pe­ti­tion by former DSI deputy chief Som­boon Sar­a­sit. In his pe­ti­tion to the Merit Sys­tem Pro­tec­tion Board, Pol Lt Col Som­boon who was trans­ferred to an in­ac­tive post last year claimed he was re­moved be­cause he re­fused to pro­ceed with a charge against Mr Pan­thong­tae in the money laun­der­ing case.

Mr Nat­tawut said if there were grounds to Pol Lt Col Som­boon’s claim, the of­fi­cial’s pe­ti­tion would no longer be a bone of con­tention be­tween him and his su­per­vi­sor.

He said it would in­volve the jus­tice sys­tem as a whole and raise con­cerns if the crim­i­nal jus­tice process was be­ing abused as a tool against po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents.

“If Mr Pan­thong­tae did some­thing il­le­gal, he must face jus­tice but pro­ceed­ings must be fair and trans­par­ent,” he said.

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