January 17, 2014 00:00 By Petchanet Pratruengkrai
NACC charges 15, says Yingluck should also be held accountable as it probes her role
In another blow to embattled caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the anti-graft agency yesterday decided to investigate her in connection with the alleged irregularities in the government’s controversial rice pledging scheme.
The fact-finding committee of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) concluded that the caretaker prime minister should also be held responsible for wrongdoing involving the project, besides other suspects.
The panel found that she was aware of the losses caused by the project but failed to prevent it, NACC member Vicha Mahakhun said.
The panel will submit its report to the commissioners for further investigation.
Yingluck ducked questions from reporters on the decision.
The NACC also ruled there was no evidence substantiating the government-to-government rice deals claimed by Yingluck’s government and pressed charges against former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom, former deputy commerce minister Phum Saraphon and 13 alleged accomplices.
The committee will also investigate Yingluck’s alleged failure to try to stop the damage done to the country by the pledging project.
Vicha said the committee would summon the 15 suspects to explain themselves within 15 days. About nine officials from the Foreign Trade Department are involved. However, the charged officials could continue in their posts until the anti-graft body finds grounds to indict them.
Vicha said there were thousands of pages of documents and hundreds of witnesses. There are also companies involved. Of these, charges will be pressed against well-known rice trader Siam Indica, as it was named as an agent in a G2G deal to ship rice overseas for the government.
Siam Indica was suspected of selling rice that the company had won through domestic bidding instead of shipping it overseas. The firm allegedly intended to evade taxes, and the committee ordered the Revenue Department to demand back taxes.
The NACC also instructed the Foreign Trade Department to cease all activities and plans to sell rice, as it leads to corruption.
Deputy Commerce Minister Yangyong Phuangrach urged the NACC to ask trading-partner countries, as well as foreign embassies, about the contracts to balance its investigation of the case, saying they are real.
Former commerce minister Boonsong said he was prepared for the investigation. He will not allow anybody to make accusations and will discuss the matter with his legal team soon.