Rice-pledging scheme 'corrupt from beginning to end'; prosecution urged after 7-0 vote by anti-graft body
THE NATIONAL Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday unanimously found former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra negligent in overseeing the loss-making and allegedly corruption-ridden rice-pledging scheme, a charge that could see her serving up to 10 years in jail.
The NACC announcement came six hours after the junta had permitted Yingluck to go overseas.
The NACC will next week ask the Office of the Attorney-General to prosecute her at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Officeholders.
Commissioner Vicha Maha-khun, who was in charge of the case, said the NACC voted 7-0 to seek Yingluck’s indictment for her responsibility as the prime minister and chairwoman of the National Rice Policy Committee that made and implemented policies for the rice-pledging scheme.
Her government manipulated the rice market, pushing the pledging price far higher than the market price and abused the market mechanism, he said.
“There was corruption at every stage of the scheme from the beginning registration stage, bringing outsiders to take paddy farmers’ rights, cheating, rotating rice in the project and even stealing rice from stocks,” he said.
“Political influence was widely used to help associates of people in the government to get the rights to sell rice from the government’s inventory without transparent auctions,” he said.
The graft burdened the government budget and caused losses in the government’s rice dealings, he said.
“The scheme has created the largest damage to the country with a massive loss of not less than Bt500 billion,” Vicha claimed.
The rice-pledging scheme was launched by the Yingluck administration in 2011. It made the government the biggest rice trader in the market, damaging the free-market system, he said.
Private mills and exporters were unable to procure rice for their business, he said.
The scheme also raised the price of Thai rice higher than that of competitors in the world market, he said. The then opposition Democrat Party filed a complaint to the anti-graft body against Yingluck and many ministers and officials in her government a long time ago.
The NACC in May decided to indict her and forwarded the case to the Senate for her impeachment. However, after the military coup, the impeachment motion was put on hold, as the junta dissolved the Senate. Yingluck might be banned from politics for five years if she is impeached.
The five ministers facing a graft probe in connection with the rice-pledging scheme include three former commerce ministers – Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, Boonsong Teriyapirom and Yanyong Puangrat – and ex-deputy commerce minister Poom Sarapol. Her brother ex-PM Thaksin was sentenced in 2008 by the Supreme Court to two years’ imprisonment for abuse of power in connection with the purchase of land in Ratchadaphisek. He fled abroad two months before the court delivered its verdict.