PTT under scrutiny over ‘bribes from Rolls-Royce’

national January 21, 2017 01:00

By PRAPHAN JINDALERTUDOMDEE,
NATTHAPAT PHROMKAEW
THE NATION

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NACC investigating Bt385 million allegedly paid to executives according to US justice dept.



INVESTIGATIONS into the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal have expanded to energy giant PTT, where the national anti-graft agency is looking into an allegation that its employees accepted bribes of more than Bt385 million from the British engine-maker.

Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, president of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), said yesterday he has instructed the agency’s secretary-general, Sansern Poljieak, to determine the facts of the allegation as soon as possible. 

PTT and its subsidiary PTT Exploration and Production were mentioned in an inquiry by the United States’ Department of Justice, which found that employees of the two companies were involved in accepting bribes from Rolls-Royce of more than Bt385 million. 

Rolls-Royce employees allegedly hired intermediaries in Thailand to help it secure contracts with PTT, the state-owned energy company. In one instance, an employee and senior executive discussed how a large payment would be disguised in the company’s accounting software. More than $11 million of corrupt payments were made over 10 years, The Guardian newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, PTT president and chief executive officer Tevin Vongvanich yesterday said in a company statement that a committee has been set up to investigate the procurements of past projects involving Rolls-Royce equipment and services. 

The committee was given 30 days to establish facts and submit them to PTT’s board of directors, he said, adding that the firm would treat the matter seriously for the sake of transparency under its good governance practice. 

Watcharapol, the NACC president, said yesterday that he could not specify an exact period when his agency would complete the investigation into Thai Airways International’s alleged involvement in the bribery scandal. THAI’s top executive announced on Wednesday he would set up a special task force to investigate the matter.

The anti-graft body is coordinating with Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, the US Department of Justice, and the US Securities and Exchange Commission on allegations that Bt1.25 billion in bribes were paid by Rolls-Royce to state agencies and THAI employees from 1991 to 2005.

“The NACC will expedite to complete the fact-finding over the bribery case soonest by looking into who else were involved with the bribes,” said Watcharapol.

Officials from Rolls-Royce (Thailand) reportedly met with THAI President Charamporn Jotikasthira yesterday but no details were released.

Captain Yothin Phamornmontri, THAI’s former executive vice president operations, said the national airline started using Rolls-Royce engines when it purchased Boeing 777-200s, a new model at that time. This aircraft model was designed to be suitable with only two brands of engines made by the US’s GE and Rolls-Royce. 

He said then-THAI management chose Rolls-Royce engines because the firm had developed its engines continuously. Also, Rolls-Royce engines were found to be of better value than its competition, he added. Therefore, THAI decided to use Rolls-Royce’s T800 engine for its Boeing 777-200s.

“However, there were differences between the two aerospace firms in that GE was written in the agreement that any purchase transactions would be executed directly, not done through the intermediaries system like Rolls-Royce,” said Yothin.

Thanong Bidaya, who served as THAI chairman between June 2002 and March 2005, denied he was involved in the bribery case. “I never approved the purchase of Rolls-Royce’s T800 engines, which happened before I took the chairman’s post,” he said.

Former MP Wattana Muangsook yesterday posted a Facebook message saying his then-Cabinet led by ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra was not involved in the bribery scandal. 

He said THAI was a listed company and it had the authority to design specifications and procurement of the engines while the Cabinet had no authority to approve the purchase. 

Wattana served as commerce minister during the Thai Rak Thai Party-led government between 2004 and 2005, when bribes were allegedly paid.

He denied he was involved in the bribes.

Meanwhile, outspoken former MP Chuwit Kamolvisit yesterday told reporters at Parliament House that he would back the government’s investigation team to probe the bribes. 

“I don’t believe that they will be able to find any wrongdoers over the bribes since the case has been occurring for decades … Even though the timeframe of investigations is set to be final within 30 days, there will be an extension,” he said.

Chuwit said that he had the same set of documents as the British courts, but declined to elaborate more on the names of involved persons. 

In Indonesia, the country’s Corruption Eradication Commission has named former Garuda CEO Emirsyah Satar as a suspect for allegedly receiving kickbacks from Rolls-Royce in exchange for buying planes fitted with the company’s engines.

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