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New ruling gives govt ‘upper hand’ in Klong Dan dispute

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Wissanu confident of winning the case after verdict Nullifies damages.

THE CENTRAL Administrative Court’s nullification of an earlier ruling in connection with the corruption-ridden Klong Dan wastewater treatment scheme has given the government the upper hand over private firms behind the project that sought massive compensation from the state, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said.
Wissanu said Klong Dan Marine and Fisheries Co as well as the joint venture, NVPSKG, could petition the Supreme Administrative Court against the nullification, but he expressed confidence that the government could now win the case. The Pollution Control Department (PCD) was ordered to pay about Bt6 billion plus interest to the private firms after the government terminated the wastewater treatment contract.
The Central Administrative Court said the private firms and state officials had conspired to cheat the state through the multi-billion-baht scheme, which was unlawfully approved in 1997, and ruled that the arbitration panel’s ruling for the PCD to pay the huge compensation in multiple instalments was not legal.
Wissanu said the government had already suspended payment of two earlier instalments so no additional measure will be taken at this stage as it awaits the final court judgement.

New ruling gives govt ‘upper hand’ in Klong Dan dispute
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court yesterday postponed the reading of its verdict on criminal charges against 11 of the 18 defendants in connection with the project’s unlawful land acquisition and related matters.
Wattana Asavahem, a former deputy interior minister, is among the defendants who is accused of abusing his power while in office to facilitate fraudulent land ownership documents used in connection with the project. Wattana earlier fled the country before a court ruling.
Citing the absence of several defendants, the Supreme Court postponed the reading of its verdict to May 30.
Meanwhile, a key man behind the court’s nullification order expressed confidence that the ruling would not hurt investor confidence 
Prapas Kong-Ied was deputy permanent secretary at the Finance Ministry when he was appointed in 2016 by Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong to look into the complex Klong Dan legal case.
His task was to convince the Central Administrative Court to review the case after the Supreme Administrative Court ruled in 2014 in favour of the private company and ordered the PCD to pay Bt9.6 billion damages following the government’s decision to terminate the contract with NVPSKG.
The verdict of the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders, which sentenced former deputy Interior minister Wattana Asavahem to a jail term in the corruption case, was an advantage to the team. This and other evidence was used in pursuing the case.
Prapas said he was satisfied with the court’s decision on Tuesday.
“The key point is that government will not protect investment projects with irregularities committed by state officials and individuals engaging in government projects,” said Prapas. Based on that rationale, there is no risk to investor confidence, he said. Prapas was also confident that the PCD had a good chance to win the final battle in court.
The NVPSKG joint venture has 30 days to appeal against the ruling.
Prapas, 56, graduated with a masters in law from Harvard Law School in the US. He had previously worked at the Excise Department and was also a judge in tax and criminal courts.
Prapas is currently a director-general of the Public Debt Management Office at the Finance Ministry .

Published : March 07, 2018