SHIN DEAL ROW
Jaruvan threatens to quit panel
Committee chair says he must focus on corruption cases, not on personal wealth
Assets Examination committee chairman Sawat Chotepanich presides over the panelís first meeting at the office of the Auditor General yesterday. The committee was recently created by the CDR.
Auditor-General Jaruvan Maintaka threatened to pull out of the Assets Examination Committee yesterday after a row with its chairman Sawat Chotephanich over the Shin Corp takeover, an informed source revealed.
At the panel's first meeting Jaruvan said they should be entitled to probe the Shin deal - but Sawat said the committee should only focus on projects with alleged corruption.
The Shin Corp case only involved personal wealth, he reportedly said.
Sawat said the Asset Examination Committee did not have jurisdiction to cover alleged "policy corruption" during the Thaksin government, as its scope of authority from the Council for Democratic Reform (CDR) was limited to a re-examination of projects approved by ousted ministers.
However, Jaruvan thought the panel should supervise all cases of alleged irregularity. In the end, Bank of Thailand governor Pridiyathorn Devakula stepped in to compromise.
Sources from the meeting said committee members were split about the matter. Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala, secretary-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), who also attended the meeting, shared Sawat's view that Shin Corp should be excluded.
Moreover, Jaruvan did not want to comply with Sawat's demand to provide all investigative reports from the Auditor-General's Office about the matter, because of fears that it may affect the investigation process, the source said.
Yesterday was the committee's first meeting after the CDR assigned them on Sunday to investigate alleged corruption by the former prime minister and his cabinet.
Sawat said that, according to the order given by the CDR, the committee had a duty to probe only government projects approved by ministers of the ousted Thaksin Shinawatra government.
And the panel did not have authority to look into tax payments related to the Shin deal either, he said.
Over the past five years, critics have accused the Thaksin government of having designed policies to benefit their own interests, such as changing laws and regulations to benefit the Shinawatra family's mobile-phone business - before they sold it to Temasek of Singapore.
Sawat said the Assets Examination Committee would investigate if any politician had sold shares on the stock market to collect cash - although they had not received any complaints of such so far.
He said the committee would hold weekly meetings every Wednesday, and would ask the the Auditor-General's Office to propose cases for investigation next week.
Thirachai said yesterday the SEC was continuing to look into the Shin takeover. Currently, the securities watchdog is waiting for information from the British Virgin Islands and the US Government to see if there are any irregularities.
Once the information was gathered they would proceed with legal action against any wrongdoers found to have violated the Securities and Stock Exchange Act.
However, any wrongdoing in regard to the share sale did not relate to the operation of the committee to scrutinise assets, operations, and projects approved or endorsed by Cabinet members of the Thaksin regime, he said.
Stock Exchange president Patareeya Benjaponchai said the exchange was willing to provide information to the Assets Examination Committee, if asked. However, the SET had already concluded their investigation and had found no wronging in the Shin Corp deal. The case would not be opened for investigation again, she said.
In a related development, National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) chairman Panthep Klanarongran said yesterday the NCCC will hand over the CTX bomb-scanner corruption case to the Asset Examination Committee for investigation.
Panthep called an urgent meeting of the nine NCCC commissioners to set priorities for all corruption cases. They decided to tackle first those major cases for which the statute of limitations is about to make prosecutions impossible, such as the Klong Dan wastewater treatment project in Samut Prakan. The case cannot be prosecuted after the end of this year.
He said some smaller corruption cases would be handled by the state agencies that oversee the projects.
The NCCC will investigate charges of corruption in projects that were not approved by the Cabinet. The Asset Examination Committee will investigate projects that were approved by the Cabinet, such as the CTX corruption case, he said.