Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had given the green light for the permanent secretary of Commerce to proceed with the civil liability case, after which six defendants will be formally advised of the charges.
The bogus government-to-government (G2G) rice deals, involving a total of 6.2 million tonnes of Thai rice, were signed and executed by former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and five others.
Civil liability law covers all elected officials and bureaucrats accused of causing financial damage to the state while in office. The law empowers authorities to seek financial compensation in relevant cases.
Defendants have a total of 45 days to dispute the charges after which the Commerce Ministry will forward the case to the Department of Legal Execution, which has the authority to seize the defendants’ assets pending a ruling by the Administrative Court.
Chutima Boonyaprapat, the outgoing permanent secretary who retires on September 30, said the ministry had a team of lawyers on this case, adding that defendants may seek an injunction on the seizure of assets and fight the case in court.
Wiboonlasana Ruamraksa, the incoming permanent secretary, said she had no details on the case, so it would take time to review the case before she can sign the executive order as assigned by the Commerce minister.
Warong Dejkijvikrom, a former Democrat MP, said the commerce minister appears to have lacked political leadership because she assigned the permanent secretary to sign the executive order on her behalf.
As well as former commerce minister Boonsong, former premier YIngluck Shinawatra is also expected to face a massive civil liability lawsuit as a result of the rice-pledging scheme. State losses and financial damages in the case are estimated to be Bt178 billion to Bt286 billion covering five rice production seasons.
The rice-pledging scheme was the largest farm price intervention effort covering all paddy that was sold to the government at around Bt15,000 per tonne, against the prevailing market price of only Bt7,000 to Bt8,000 per tonne.
Government sources said Yingluck could be held responsible for 20 per cent of the damages or Bt35.7 billion.