The company’s director Colin Weir and two Thai executives called a press conference to denounce the Transport Ministry and the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) for launching a smear campaign to avoid paying the compensation, which now adds up to 27 billion baht.
In 2019, the Supreme Administrative Court ordered the ministry and SRT to pay 11.89 billion baht plus the accrued interest rate of 7.5 per cent to the company over the termination of a mega mass-transit project.
Weir said the ministry and SRT were trying to void Hopewell (Thailand)’s legal status with the hope of “not to return our money without fearing that the move would affect the government’s credibility in the eyes of international investors”.
Weir was referring to fresh attempts by the ministry and SRT to invalidate the establishment of Hopewell in Thailand by filing two separate lawsuits.
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said the company was thought to have been unlawfully registered with the Department of Business Development, which is why the contract was voided.
The first case against Hopewell (Thailand) is being filed at the Civil Court to seek a ruling on whether the Hopewell project violated the National Executive Council Announcement No 281, which requires companies to be qualified and approved by the Cabinet before conducting business in Thailand.
The second case will be filed by SRT against the registrar of the Bangkok Office of the Central Company and Partnership Registration, who did not object to the registration of Hopewell (Thailand) even though it was in violation of the announcement.
Supat Tirachusak, who oversees legal affairs for Hopewell, said the company was planning to file legal complaints with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases against both agencies and some individuals for damaging the company’s reputation.
“We will go ahead with all legal procedures to take our money back. We don’t have any other motives,” Supat said.
“We have come out to speak today because the amount is not a so-called ‘stupid’ fee that the government has to pay. The money is the amount Hopewell has invested and paid in concession fees to SRT. Since SRT cancelled the contract, it should return the money to the private firm.”
Supat said Hopewell (Thailand) had been registered in line with the law, and its establishment was approved by the Commerce Ministry before it bid for the 80-billion-baht Bangkok Elevated Road and Train System in 1990.
“In 1990, the SRT certified that our company was registered properly, but then in 2021 it said our company’s registration was unlawful. This is not fair. The state agencies are not complying with the law, and we cannot accept this,” the lawyer said.
The legal battle between Hopewell, SRT and the Transport Ministry was sparked two decades ago when SRT cancelled its contract with Hopewell in 1998.
Hopewell appealed against the cancellation with the Thailand Arbitration Committee, which ruled in favour of the company on September 30, 2008.
The arbitration committee ruled that the ministry and SRT must pay 11.89 billion baht in compensation to Hopewell (Thailand) to cover its investment as well as the cost of the contract guarantee and fee it paid to SRT, plus 7.5 per cent per annum interest.
When the Supreme Administrative Court issued an order in 2019 affirming the previous ruling, the amount had ballooned to 25.4 billion baht thanks to the cumulative interest.
Supat said on Tuesday that the sum now adds up to 27 billion baht and that the two agencies should pay up soon to avoid wasting taxpayers’ money on the accrued interest.
Published : June 21, 2022
By : THE NATION