February 02, 2013 00:00
By Piyanuch Thamnukasetchai
DSI, AMLO asked to look into charges executives are 'unusually wealthy'
The St Gabriel’s Foundation and its executives have come under close scrutiny as authorities from the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) consider requests to act on allegations that the foundation misused a fund entrusted to its care.
“Some priests from the foundation have served as directors of the Assumption schools and become unusually rich,” Asst Prof Wiwatchai Kulamard said yesterday in his capacity as chief adviser to the Network of Parents and Youth. “Some have been playing golf on their own schools’ golf courses”.
The network yesterday officially asked the DSI to scrutinise the bank accounts of the St Gabriel’s Foundation and its 56 executive and priests. The foundation’s current chairman is Sirichai Fonseka.
“We also call on the DSI to look into the bank accounts of people close to the foundation’s executives and priests,” Wiwatchai said.
The foundation runs several educational institutes in Thailand, including the well-known Assumption College (AC). Established more than a century ago, AC was hit with a major scandal earlier this year.
AC teachers protested against the then-AC director for not increasing their monthly pay in line with the Education Ministry’s policy – and also for his decision to develop the school’s Rama II campus. Earlier this week, the director was removed from his post after he reacted to a protest threat by suspending classes.
Wiwatchai yesterday said the budget for construction at the Rama II campus stood at well over Bt2.5 billion. “It’s a huge fund,” he said.
Wiwatchai said the DSI should investigate whether the foundation had used the fund in its care for educational purposes.
“Much of the fund in the foundation’s care comes from donations,” he said.
Wiwatchai alleged the AC collected up to Bt750,000 for each new primary student and Bt350,000 for each new secondary student.
“Tea money is apparently involved – but no one has really investigated it,” he complained.
DSI deputy chief Sivaporn Chuenjitsiri said she would examine the information received to determine whether the case fell under the jurisdiction of the DSI.
“If not, we’ll forward it to the relevant agencies,” she said.
DSI chief Tarit Pengdith, meanwhile, said the allegation, if proven, could qualify as embezzlement of the foundation’s fund.
Meanwhile, Nation Associate Anti-Corruption Network (NACN) secretary-general Mongkhonkit Suksintaranont disclosed he had called on the AMLO to investigate financial transactions by the foundation and three of its executives.
“I have also presented some evidence including information related to builders contracted by the foundation,” he said.
AMLO secretary-general Seehanat Prayoonrat said he had already assigned officials to look into the petition filed by Mongkhonkit to determine which agencies were involved.
“As similar petitions are filed with other agencies, we’ll determine first as to what action has already been taken,” he said.