Saksayam accused of concealing assets, allegedly using nominee to win projects
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob was grilled by opposition MPs, who accused him of concealing his assets and allegedly using a nominee to hide ownership of a company to win ministry construction projects.
Saksayam was attacked on Tuesday, the first day of the four-day censure debate, in an opposition strategy to “terminate heads of pillars” that support the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Saksayam is the secretary-general of coalition partner Bhumjaithai Party.
Move Forward party-list MP Pakornwut Udompipatskul launched the bombardment, which was reinforced by Prachachart Party secretary-general and list MP Tawee Sodsong, who concluded that the transport minister allegedly lacked integrity and practised corruption, so he deserved to be removed from office.
Pakornwut alleged Saksayam owned Buri Charoen Construction Co Ltd but he used an employee as a nominee to conceal ownership.
The Move Forward MP said Saksayam allegedly violated the Constitution and the law to allow his company to win construction projects from the Transport Ministry.
Pakornwut claimed Buri Charoen Construction was registered in 1996, with the Chidchob family holding 80 per cent of its shares. The company initially used Saksayam’s home address at its official address.
Later on, when Saksayam got a political post, he allegedly transferred all of his shares to others and the company moved its office to another place when the National Council for Peace and Order seized power. After the NCPO was dissolved, Saksayam allegedly became the biggest shareholder of the company again in 2015, holding almost 100 per cent of shares. He also increased the firm's capital fund to 120 million baht and moved the company’s office back to his house, Pakornwut alleged.
In 2018, when it was announced that a new general election would be held, Saksayam allegedly transferred all of his shares to a nominee the following day and again shifted Buri Charoen’s address from his house. The share transfer and address change occurred just 23 days before Saksayam became the transport minister, Pakornwut claimed.
The Move Forward MP said he suspected that the share transfer came under a nominee because there was no evidence of stock trade between the transport minister and the buyer. Pakornwut said the buyer also appeared to be an employee of Saksayam.
Pakornwut said there was no record of whether the shares were sold with a value higher or lower than the initial 120 million baht value and the new shareholder did not report any profit.
He claimed Saksayam himself did not report the proceeds from the share sale as part of his assets in his financial statement submitted to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) in 2019.
“In 2019, you [Saksayam] filed a statement saying you had assets worth 115 million baht without debt. You said you had deposits and cash of 76 million baht and you said you acquired all the assets before 2018. The question is where the 120 million baht from the share trade has gone,” Pakornwut said during the debate.
Apart from the alleged concealment of assets, Pakornwut claimed Saksayam also had Buri Charoen win construction projects from his own Transport Ministry.
The Move Forward MP said Buri Charoen won more than 1 billion baht worth of projects from the ministry and several projects were apparently won with “irregularities because the company proposed prices just 0.3 per cent lower than the median prices”. Worse still, Pakornwut went on to allege, the bidding of such projects had only one rival, which was a firm that donated 5 million baht to the Bhumjaithai in 2019.
“Anyone would say that this kind of bidding was a collusion. It was apparent. It’s already wrong for you to have your company win projects from the ministry that you head but the firm was also clearly involved in bidding collusion,” Pakornwut said.
Pakornwut noted that the alleged nominee reported a suspiciously low income, yet he could buy a plot of land from Chai Chidchob, Saksayam’s father, and also purchase shares from Saksayam himself.
Pakornwut said the nominee had his name as a director of four companies but three others were not active.
The Move Forward MP added that information from the Office of the Social Security Fund and the Revenue Department showed the new Buri Charoen “owner” had only “revenue” of some 100,000 baht a year from 2015 to 2020, or about 9,000 baht a month.
Pakornwut said the income of the alleged nominee was a monthly salary from Silachai Buri Ram (1991) Co Ltd, which he claimed was owned by the Chidchob family. Saksayam was a director of Silachai Buri Ram in 2015, Pakornwut also claimed.
He said Silachai’s 2018 and 2019 books showed this employee, who became the new owner of Buri Charoen, also became a creditor of Silachai for 221.5 million baht. The books in 2021 showed Silachai still owed 250.2 million baht to this employee, Pakornwut said.
He noted that it was suspicious that while Silachai was heavily in debt, it still donated 4.7 million baht to Bhumjaithai in 2019 and another 2.77 million baht in 2020.
Pakornwut alleged Buri Charoen also donated 4.8 million baht to Bhumjaithai and the company granted a 100 million baht loan to Silachai in 2020 and 2021.
The Move Forward MP described the alleged nominee as “Mr A”.
In conclusion, Pakornwut said the suspicious transactions would immediately make sense if Mr A was Saksayam.
Then, Tawee rose to reinforce Pakornwut’s claims, with more details and graphic illustrations.
Tawee alleged the transfer of Buri Charoen’s 99.99 per cent shares to Mr A was fake to conceal alleged ownership by Saksayam because the transport minister did not receive any money from the share sale and there were no bank statements to prove the transactions and no tax was paid from the proceeds.
Tawee said Saksayam violated Section 187 of the Constitution, which prohibits a minister from being a partner or shareholder of a company.
After Saksayam became the transport minister, Buri Charoen won state construction projects worth 2.21 billion baht from 2019 to 2022, Tawee claimed.
He said the Transport Ministry’s budget for Buri Ram has also risen. For fiscal 2013 alone, the ministry would shell out 5.97 billion baht to Buri Ram, Tawee said.
The opposition has “enough information” to substantiate suspicion that Saksayam owns Buri Charoen through a nominee, Tawee said.
He alleged that Saksayam also violated Section 84 of the charter by becoming a contractor in state projects.
Tawee said the opposition would ask the NACC to conduct a probe against the transport minister.
“As a result, Saksayam is not qualified to be a cabinet member because he still holds shares in a company and had the company become a contractor with the state,” Tawee alleged.
“He acted in a way that lacked integrity, morality and ethics. He [allegedly] violated political ethics and interfered to help affiliates and his political party reap benefits from the state agencies he supervised. He [allegedly] abused power to allow himself and his affiliates to reap benefits from state projects. He failed to supervise his ministry to conduct a fair bidding. So, we see that his office as the transport minister must be terminated in accordance with Section 170 of the charter,” Tawee concluded.