Watana released on bail after indictment for corruption

politics May 10, 2018 01:00

By THE NATION

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WATANA Muangsook, a key Pheu Thai Party politician, was yesterday brought to the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders for alleged malfeasance – the latest in a series of legal cases viewed by critics as politically motivated.



Public prosecutors indicted Watana for alleged irregularities in connection with the second Thaksin Shinawatra government’s Ua Athon housing project for low-income earners, which was built by the National Housing Authority (NHA).

Watana, now 60, at that time was serving as minister of social development and human security overseeing the NHA. 

Also sued in the same case are Mana Wongpiwat, a former NHA director who headed the project’s screening committee between 2005 and 2006, and 17 executives and employees of private companies involved in the project.

The court yesterday scheduled June 6 for both parties to hear a decision whether to accept the prosecutors’ case for trial.

Watana was yesterday released by the court on bail of Bt5 million, on condition that he would not leave the country without court permission.

Public prosecutors yesterday formally indicted nine key suspects including Watana, out of 19 people accused in the case. Six of the nine appeared at the Office of Attorney-General in an appointment with public prosecutors yesterday morning.

Watana yesterday denied the allegation that he had asked for a bribe from the private companies involved in the project. He claimed the accusation against him was just an attempt to legitimise the 2006 coup.

The politician said he was satisfied that the requested bail was not high.

He said he was confident about the evidence he had. “This case is not complex. The NACC knows that. This case is meant as a political tool to harm our group,” Watana said, referring to the junta’s political enemies.

Watana added that in addition to the legal cases against him and other politicians who stand opposed to the junta, there would be more soon against politicians in the Thaksin camp, including ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra. On the contrary, Watana added, cases against his political rivals have seen slow progress.

The scandal-hit Ua Athon housing project was first investigated by the Assets Examination Committee (AEC), which was set up after the 2006 military that overthrew the second Thaksin government. The case came after the National Anti-Corruption Commission took over when the AEC’s term expired. 

Last year, the NACC submitted its investigative report regarding the case to the Office of the Attorney-General. Recently, Attorney-General Khemchai Chutiwong decided to indict 19 people found involved in the alleged irregularities.

According to the lawsuit, Watana is accused of malfeasance for abusing his power as a government official for bribery. Mana is accused of asking for and taking a bribe. And the 17 others are accused of supporting malfeasance committed by Watana.