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Rolls-Royce ‘kickbacks’ to PTT to be probed

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NACC names team to investigate $11m bribes to execs of national oil company.

THE COUNTRY’S top anti-graft officials have been appointed to investigate alleged corruption in the 2000-2013 procurement of multi-billion-baht Rolls-Royce industrial equipment by PTT plc and its subsidiary, PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP).
Pol General Watcharaphol Prasarnrachakit, chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Commis-sion (NACC), said yesterday three of six procurement projects by the state-owned PTT and PTTEP during the period would be scrutinised by a subcommittee headed by Supa Piyachitti, Surasak Kirivichien and Pol General Staporn Laothong.
According to documentary evidence provided by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the US Justice Department, more than US$11 million (Bt368 million) was paid in bribes to PTT, PTTEP and other state officials in return for the energy companies purchasing Rolls-Royce’s products from 2000 to 2013.
Dozens of top executives from PTT and PTTEP, as well as members of the two companies’ procurement committees, are among people accused of receiving the bribes from Rolls-Royce.
Watcharaphol said preliminary fact-finding inquiries saw grounds to pursue further investigations into dubious procurements related to the three projects, so the NACC decided the three commissioners would take charge of the case.
Previously, a total of 26 former ministers and top executives of state-owned Thai Airways International (THAI) were accused of receiving kickbacks from the UK-based Rolls-Royce in return for purchasing a large number of aircraft engines for the national-flag carrier’s fleet.
Watcharaphol said the anti-graft agency would also seek cooperation from counterparts at the US Justice Department while working on the PTT-PTTEP/Rolls-Royce case.
In the case of THAI, its previous president, Charumporn Chotikas-athien, has set up an in-house committee to look into the allegations.
The NACC also proceeded with its investigation of the THAI case with a focus on a former transport minister, a deputy minister, THAI’s board of directors and its long-term investment subcommmittee. 
Together, they approved a multi-billion-dollar deal to buy six aircraft with Rolls-Royce engines in 2004 and 2005 when Thaksin Shinawatra was prime minister.
In January this year, Tewin Wongwanich, the current CEO of PTT, said the state-owned oil and gas firm had also launched an internal investigation into the alleged kickbacks from 2000 to 2013.
During the period, Tewin’s CEO predecessors were Pairin Chuchot-taworn and Prasert Boonsamphun. 
According to Tewin, representatives of the German firm Siemens were also asked to provide information relevant to the allegations since Siemens purchased Rolls-Royce businesses in late 2014.
While documentary evidence from both UK and US authorities regarding PTT’s and THAI’s procurement is substantial and specific, efforts to bring wrongdoers to justice have been relatively slow.
In addition, the statute of limitations for some incidents have expired after a period of 20 years. In most cases, anti-graft authorities may still pursue criminal actions against those involved in receiving kickbacks.
Documents from UK and US authorities have also implicated |top officials in Indonesia, Malaysia, China and India regarding procurement of aircraft engines for national carriers.
Rolls-Royce has agreed to pay a huge fine of $808 million to settle the case after it cooperated with UK authorities on an investigation regarding bribe payments and related wrongdoing.

Published : July 23, 2017

By : THE NATION