Court gives Yingluck until August 31 to submit testimony

Court gives Yingluck until August 31 to submit testimony
The former prime minister faces negligence charges over her government's controversial rice-pledging scheme.
PHOTO: Reuters

THE SUPREME Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders yesterday gave former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra more time to provide a list of witnesses and evidence in relation to the negligence charge against her over her government's controversial rice-pledging scheme.

Yingluck submitted a request to the court, seeking extension of the date for the submission of her written testimony. The court has set August 31 as the new date, after twice adjourning it from July 21 and July 28.

The court has commenced a trial against former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and 20 others for violating the Price Collusion Act of 1999, articles 151 and 157 of the Criminal Code, and the Anti-Corruption Act in relation to a government-to-government deal involving the rice-pledging scheme.

Prosecutors are pushing for Bt35 billion (S$1.4 billion) in compensation, accusing the defendants of causing damage to the state.

Boonsong and the other defendants, except two, turned up at the trial yesterday. The court ordered them to submit their testimonies before August 31 and the court will examine evidence on September 29.

The court issued arrest warrants for Weerawut Wajjanapukka, former secretary to the commerce minister, and Suthee Laumthaisong, director of Siralai Co Ltd, for failing to show up at the trial and showing intent to escape prosecution.

The court also cancelled an order for the temporary release of Nimon Rakdee after examining the land title deed he posted for bail and determining it to be illegal. Should Nimon fail to present the court with proper assets, he will be sent to jail.

The court also rejected some of the defendants' requests for a trial in absentia.

In a related development, the National Anti-Corruption Commission will today examine a petition in which former information and communications technology minister Anudith Nakornthap has called for the replacement of the NACC panel probing whether 34 members of the Yingluck cabinet illegally paid compensation to the red shirts affected by political rallies from 2005-10.

NACC member Vicha Mahakun said the NACC would decide today whether to accept Anudith's request to replace the panel members on adversarial grounds.

The request was submitted by Anudith's lawyer after Anudith had filed a suit with the Nonthaburi Provincial Court against Vicha and other panel members, accusing them of violating Article 157 of the Criminal Code after committing malfeasance when they accused the 34 ex-cabinet members of illegally paying compensation.

Vicha said the NACC would decide on whether Anudith had filed the suit with an ulterior motive in mind.

Anudith's lawyer, Winyat Chatmontri, said the suit filed against the panel members was based in both sides being adversarial towards each other. The NACC's failure to replace the 11 panel members could be deemed unethical, he said.

Winyat quoted Anudith as insisting that the 34 ex-cabinet members had approved the fund to compensate the political victims with legitimacy. They regarded the NACC pressing charges against them as pure harassment or vengeance.

He said the NACC panel had failed to give them a fair investigation after not summoning all the witnesses to give testimonies. They had asked for their defence statements to be postponed for 15 days.

NACC chairman Panthep Klanarongran said the 34 ex-MPs including Yingluck had to hear the charges at the NACC today.

He said if they failed to turn up, the NACC would deliver the charges via post and they would be required to submit their defence statements within 15 days of receiving the charges.

Panthep said they were allowed to postpone giving their defence statement twice. The NACC would pursue legal action against anyone who did not submit the statement, he added.

The panel would wrap up the investigation and submit its decision to the NACC in July, he said.

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