February 01, 2014 00:00 By Kesinee Teangkhieo The Nation
Bt46m ordered seized; Supoth faced graft investigation by NACC since 2011 'robbery'
The Civil Court yesterday found the former permanent secretary for the Transport Ministry, Supoth Sublom, guilty of being “unusually rich” and ordered the seizure of his assets worth Bt46.14 million.
Supoth was charged by public prosecutors in court in February 2012. The court reasoned that it was impossible for Supoth to have amassed so much wealth through honest means during his time as a government official.
Supoth faced a graft probe by the National Anti-Corruption Commis-sion (NACC) after eight suspected thieves broke into his house on Lat Phrao Soi 64 on the night of November 12, 2011, and made off with Bt18 million in cash and gold ornaments.
After the arrest of the suspects, Supoth initially claimed that only Bt5 million was stolen from his house and the money was a gift for his daughter’s wedding.
After an investigation, the NACC asked the Civil Court to seize Bt64.998 million worth of Supoth’s assets, including savings in nine bank accounts, savings with the Highway Department cooperative, land plots in and outside Bangkok, his house, vehicles, and condominiums. The amount included the Bt18 million retrieved from the thieves.
The NACC told the court that Supoth failed to clarify how he had amassed such a large amount of assets, which it argued could not have been accrued merely from his earnings in the Transport Ministry.
Defending himself, Supoth presented six relatives who claimed that some of the frozen assets belonged to them. He also claimed he already owned most of the assets before he became permanent secretary. The six were Narumol Saplom, Sutthiwan Saplom, Chalee Chaimongkol, Anek Jongsathien, Suebpong Prapyai, and Sutthawan Prapyai.
The Civil Court ruled that Supoth and his six relatives had failed to provide sufficient evidence that the Bt13 million in cash retrieved from the suspected thieves belonged to them.
The court also noted that the six witnesses presented by Supoth were close to him and therefore their testimonies did not carry enough weight without strong evidence.
The court said Supoth began his government service in 1977. In 2012, as permanent secretary, he was required to submit a statement of assets to the NACC for the first time. The court noted that during the period in question, Supoth would have earned only about Bt5 million from his government salary. It was therefore irregular for him to report to the NACC having Bt46 million in assets.
The court noted that Supoth’s two daughters had continued to study abroad after they both got bachelor degrees in Thailand. The cost of their schooling should have caused Supoth’s assets to dwindle rather than increase, the court noted.