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Anti-graft agency probing rice deals, links to ministers

The National Anti-Corruption Commission sub-panel is deeply probing alleged irregularities in the rice-pledging scheme's financial transactions to identify possible nominees linked to five former ministers under investigation, NACC deputy secretary-general Warawit Sukboon said yesterday.

Facing graft probes in connection with the rice-pledging scheme are ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra, ex-commerce ministers Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, Boonsong Teriyapirom and Yanyong Phuangrach and former deputy commerce minister Poom Sarapol.

Warawit said the NACC was waiting for more information from banks and relevant state agencies.

He said all the information would be further examined in depth through analyses and syntheses to identify any irregularities in the financial transactions made by the five ex-officials before they assumed and left their post.

He said the graft panel would also interrogate parents, spouses and children and other people linked to the five to see if there were any suspicions they could have acted as nominees.

The panel would meet twice a month to expedite the investigation.

If there were evidence the five had become unusually rich, the NACC would request that the Attorney General indict them and confiscate their assets. Warawit said the NACC could directly file petitions with the Supreme Court to prosecute them if it had suspicions that any of them had committed asset concealment or submitted a false asset declaration.

ML Panadda Diskul, permanent secretary of the Prime Minister's Office, yesterday led a team of officials to inspect Udon Thani rice warehouses with thousands of sacks of pledged rice under the rice-pledging scheme and found that 25 sacks of broken rice were missing.

Panadda said his team did not find any irregularities as the number of missing sacks was much lower than 5 per cent of the total number of sacks and therefore the warehouses would not be probed further.

He said some sacks were infested with weevils and at one stage the inspection team - which included military officers - had to flee a warehouse after being swarmed by weevils.

The team used a forklift to ensure there were no attempts to cover up rice theft.

Previous checks had found that some warehouses managers had tried to deceive officials by neatly piling rice sacks several metres high to form a four-sided wall but it was hollow inside the wall.

Panadda rejected criticism that the inspections were politically motivated, saying they were part of the move to regulate the rice sector to bring Thai rice back to glory.


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