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Samak's wife, Pracha ordered by court to pay Bt587 million to BMA

The Central Administrative Court Wednesday ordered the wife of late former prime minister Samak Sundaravej and former deputy interior minister Pracha Maleenont to pay Bt587 million each to the city administration over the controversial Bt6.6 billion fire vehicles project.

The court ordered Khunying Surat Sundaravej, who is Samak's heir, and Pracha to each pay 30 per cent of the Bt1.958 billion the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration had already paid to Austria’s Steyr Daimler Puch Spezialfahrzeug for the purchase of the fire vehicle.

The two were also ordered to pay 7.5 per-cent interest retroactive to 2004 when the BMA paid the money to the Austrian firm.

The purchase was suspended after it was found that fire vehicles were defective and their prices has been highly inflated.

Surat and Pracha could still appeal against the court's ruling with the Supreme Administrative Court.

Earlier, the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions found Pracha Maleenont and former senior BMA official Athilak Tanchookiat, then director of the BMA Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, guilty of rigging bids in the fire vehicles case. Athilak was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The purchase deal was inked when Samak was BMA governor but the Supreme Court dropped charges against Samak, saying it would not pursue them after his death.

The Supreme Court last year found that Pracha and Athilak pushed for the purchase of 315 fire trucks and 30 fire-fighting boats without comparing prices, which allowed the Austrian company to sell the vehicles at a price that was nearly 49 per cent higher than they would have been if bought locally.

The Central Administrative Court Wednesday ruled that Samak and Athilak collaborated to rush the contract through before Samak completed his term. The contract was signed despite not having been scrutinised by the Office of the Attorney General, which is normal practice in purchases of this kind/

Pracha was ordered to pay the compensation in his capacity as the supervisor of the BMA at that time.

Pracha fled the country before the Supreme Court made a ruling in the case.

The Central Administrative Court also ruled Wednesday in favour of former commerce minister Watana Muangsook, freeing him from the obligation to pay damages to the BMA over the fire vehicles deal.

The court ruled that Watana had nothing to do with the order to have the BMA urgently sign the purchase contract with the Austrian firm.




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