The Marine Department has launched a probe into an allegation that one of its officials received about Bt20 million as a bribe from a Japanese firm.
“We expect the probe to conclude within seven days,” the department’s director-general, Chirute Visalachitra, said yesterday.
The allegation surfaced after the Japanese firm told Japan’s public prosecutors that one of its employees had paid 60 million Japanese yen – or about Bt20 million – to a Thai civil servant after the latter demanded a bribe to let the company unload plant equipment.
The payment, reportedly made in 2013, is a crime both in Thailand and Japan. At that time, the Marine Department was headed by Sorasak Saensombat, while Chatchart Sitthiphan was the Transport Minister.
Chirute disclosed yesterday that the allegation was linked to the Khanom power plant project.
“We have already set up a fact-finding committee to determine how a Marine Department official got involved in the scandal. What role did he or she play? We would have to check if the permit granted by the said official was in line with laws and regulations,” Chirute said.
He said the official, if found guilty of receiving a bribe, would face a harsh punishment.
He said the probe by the Marine Department was separate from an investigation handled by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).
Chirute said his department could conduct a separate probe and take disciplinary action, independent of the NACC concluding its investigation.
Deputy Transport Minister Pailin Chuchottaworn, who inspected the Marine Department yesterday, said a temporary pier had reportedly been set up to transport equipment for the power plant.
“Following the transport, the pier was removed,” he said.
Neither Chirute nor Pailin mentioned the name of the Japanese firm.
However, it was reported in Japanese media that the firm involved was Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, which reported the bribe payment to Japanese public prosecutors in 2015 after receiving a tip-off from a whistle-blower.
Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan yesterday said that the allegation was not related to the bidding for building the power plant.
“It’s related to the importation of some equipment,” he said.
He refused to elaborate, saying that he needed time to review relevant information first.
NACC secretary-general Warawit Sukboon said his agency had collaborated closely with the Japanese authorities in conducting the investigation into the scandal. “Our investigation is already more tan 80 per cent complete,” he said.