Thai TV host to be indicted in embezzlement case

Thai TV host to be indicted in embezzlement case
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (C) arrives at the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) in Nonthaburi province on March 31, 2014.

A joint panel of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Office of the Attorney-General has resolved to recommend that TV host Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda and three others be indicted for their roles in the alleged embezzlement of Bt138 million in advertising revenue from MCOT nine years ago, attorney-general's spokesman Wanchai Rujanawong said yesterday.

The four could also be indicted for their alleged involvement in a kickback payment to conceal the record of actual advertising revenues, he said.

The NACC on September 20, 2012, voted 7-0 to take legal action against three people and Rai Som Co after it found grounds to believe MCOT level 5 administrative official Pichapa Iamsa-ard had committed serious disciplinary and criminal offences. Sorrayuth, the managing director of Rai Som Co, Montha Theeradet, a director of Rai Som, and Rai Som Co had committed criminal offences by supporting officials to commit wrongdoings, the commission alleged.

Wanchai said the NACC had submitted its writ against Sorrayuth and three others to the A-G's Office for indictment but the prosecution agency on September 5, 2013, found holes in the case and ordered a joint panel of the Office and the NACC to find more evidence to plug them. The joint panel completed its investigation and recommended indictment of the four suspects accused of wrongdoings by the NACC.

He said the A-G's Office now believed that the case carried enough weight and ordered that the prosecution representatives meet with the NACC to wrap it up.

"It is likely that the NACC team will agree to indict the four because the graft agency earlier resolved to take action against them," he said.

The A-G Office's deputy spokeswoman, Santhanee Ditsayabut, said that under Article 6 of Offences Committed by State Agency and State Organisation Employees Act, officials accepting kickbacks are punishable with a maximum of life imprisonment or death and a Bt40,000 (S$1,571) fine. State officials who are corrupt face up to 20 years in jail or life imprisonment and a Bt40,000 fine.

Under Article 11, state officials who commit malfeasance face up to 10 years' imprisonment or a Bt20,000 fine or both.

As Sorrayuth is not a state official, if he is found guilty of being complicit and supporting state officials to commit the offences, he would face two-thirds of the penalties, she said.

Wanchai said the joint panel of the Office of the Attorney-General and the NACC would meet on a date that is yet to be set to wrap up the case and the Office would then assign Special Litigation Office 2 to file the indictment.

Rai Som, founded by Sorrayuth, had a contract to produce the "Kui Kui Khao" news programme for MCOT to air on weekends from noon to 1pm from 2005-06.

Rai Som sold adverts for the programme and any income beyond the given five-minute commercial time sold by the company should have been handed over to MCOT. Sorrayuth allegedly paid MCOT staff to help conceal the records of the actual income beyond five minutes of advertising airtime. The concealed additional advertising time sold for the programme allegedly amounted to Bt138 million.

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