$64.4 million stolen from Thai educational institute: Police

The Thai Bankers' Association (TBA) has been asked to freeze four bank accounts belonging to four individuals after police alleged that Bt1.6 billion (S$64.4 million) siphoned off from King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Lat Krabang (KMITL) over the past two years had been transferred to them.

Police will interview more KMITL officials in a bid to find out who is part of the embezzlement network.

Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) chief Prayong Preeyajit, meanwhile, said the agency was waiting for police findings on the KMITL case before proceeding with action against officials it said were involved. High-ranking suspects would be probed by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

Prayong said his office had urged KMITL executives to launch their own fact-finding probe and to report back to responsible agencies like PACC or NACC.

Under arrest are KMITL finance division head Ampon Noisamrit, 56, and the former manager of Bank of Ayudhya's Big C Srinakarin branch, Songklod Sriprasong, 40.

Crime Suppression Department (CSD) chief Pol Colonel Akkaradet Pimolsri said the interrogation of Songklod had yielded key information that four more people were involved.

Police claim the embezzled money was wired to accomplices' accounts, including that of absconding Poonsak Boonsawat.

Police have asked the TBA to freeze the four accounts pending a probe and check of transaction records.

Akkaradet said that if the four individuals were deemed involved in the crime, police would issue arrest warrants for them.

Akkaradet said police would interview KMITL officials to determine who else might have colluded in the embezzlement.

Suspects' transactions would be examined by the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO).

However, Akkaradet said the initial interrogation of Songklod had not found evidence of money laundering.

Ampon has been receiving diabetes treatments at a Bang Na hospital. Her doctor told police her condition had not improved and they could not interrogate her yet. They may transfer her to the Police General Hospital soon.

Meanwhile, CSD deputy chief Pol Colonel Kornchai Khlaikleung told reporters police would issue summonses for five people including Poonsak, the holder of the bank account that allegedly received the siphoned-off Bt80 million.

He said police would invite current and previous KMITL administrations to provide information.

Kornchai said the initial probe of KMITL bank accounts at Siam Commercial Bank since 2012 found 29 withdrawals from the Bt994-million long-term deposit - during the time Songklod was serving as the bank's employee.

Songklod said he had moved the money to other accounts as per customer Ampon's wishes and affirmed the Bt80-million cashier-cheque transaction at the Bank of Ayudhya branch was Ampon's wish and the steps were according to bank regulations.

Songklod said he didn't know Poonsak or about the alleged corruption because he trusted KMITL would have a security system.

Songklod said he first met Ampon while he was in a low-level job at SCB.

He said he resigned from SCB for a higher-paid job at Bank of Ayudhya, not because of any wrongdoing or problems with anyone. He insisted he had no part in the alleged bank-account forgery and said he didn't believe Ampon was a mastermind, as she had good intentions to boost KMITL interests.

AMLO chief Pol Colonel Sihanart Prayoonrat said investigations of the whole network would take some time, and only two suspects had been revealed so far.

SCB said that Songklod had quit the the bank in September 2013.

"The case is under police investigation. We're ready to cooperate fully," it said.