A high-ranking (C-9) public servant under the Revenue Department has been axed because of a false VAT-refund case worth more than Bt3.2 billion (S$126 million).
Finance Minister Sommai Phasee said yesterday that the ministry had decided to dismiss Siripong Riyakarnteerachote, who allegedly helped a group of 30 non-existing business operators, who claimed to be exporters of metals and ores, to claim refunds of value-added tax falsely.
Three or four more C-9 officials, and maybe other higher-ranking bureaucrats in the department, are expected to be let go in the near future because of their involvement in the case. The highest rank in the Thai bureaucracy is C-11.
Siripong, and probably the others, will also face criminal charges for tax fraud laid by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), Sommai said.
He added that there were "many other officials" ranked below C-9 who were also involved in the case, which is under the investigation of the Revenue Department.
The case surfaced in 2010, and the officer was transferred from Bangkok Area Revenue Office 22 to Narathiwat Area Revenue Office in the South pending investigations by the DSI, the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), the Revenue Department and the Finance Ministry.
"I have never seen such extreme corruption in my 30 years at the ministry," Sommai remarked.
The names of the board members at these fake export companies were the same, the registered addresses of the firms were the same, and none of them was actually operating. The 30 non-existent firms made orders from six non-existent suppliers before filing for the VAT refund, which was approved by Siripong and other officials.
At first, the tax refund was paid by Bangkok Area Revenue Office 22 to only 25 of the fake operators, since the department had spotted irregularities.
In the first month of the pay-out, a total of Bt339.6 million was disbursed, before Siripong approved the payment of another Bt2.869 billion later.
In total, around Bt3.209 billion was paid to the non-existent operators.
Sommai said the private sector's role in the scam would be dealt with by the DSI.
"The NACC has been informed about the extent of the corruption and the cases against Siripong.
"If we can close down all these tax loopholes, I believe that the government's income from tax revenue will increase by 10-12 per cent next year," he said.