Panel has power to freeze politicians' assets
The new committee to probe the assets of the former premier and his cabinet has been empowered to freeze the assets of politicians found to have attempted to hide or transfer their wealth.
A caricature of Auditor-General Khunying Jaruvan Maintaka shows her wielding a kitchen knife over several alleged graft cases.
Committee chairman Sawat Chotephanich, who held a news conference at the Auditor-General's Office yesterday with Khunying Jaruvan Maintaka, said his panel would follow its probe in accordance with the judicial practice.
He assured that no assets of any ousted minister would be "frozen" until hard evidence of corruption is found.
"I do not know yet who is guilty," Sawat said. But he suspected some ousted ministers might try to hide their assets or transfer their wealth to others.
Sawat met yesterday with Auditor-General Khunying Jaruvan after the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) assigned him to chair the panel to examine the assets of former politicians and all projects approved by the Thaksin government. Sawat is a former president of the Supreme Court 6, who is well respected for his honesty and integrity.
The appointment of Sawat's committee came quickly after criticism that the new National Counter Corruption Commission set up by the CDRM to examine illegal dealings might not have the teeth to go after the assets of politicians. Some members of the NCCC, chaired by Panthep Klanarongran, allegedly have dubious backgrounds and it was feared they may have links with the ousted regime.
The presence of Meechai Ruchuphan, Wissanu Krea-ngam, and Bowornsak Uwanno, who have been assigned to write the interim constitution and played a role in appointing the NCCC, shocked many people because they also had strong links with the previous regime - particularly Wissanu and Bowornsak.
Sawat and Jaruvan told the press conference the powers given by the CDRM would enable them to investigate whether any former ministers benefited from government projects.
"All cases reported earlier by the press will be submitted to the committee for consideration," Jaruvan said.
Corruption cases set to be examined include the purchase of CTX-bomb scanners for the new airport, the Airport Link by the State Railways of Thailand, the duty-free contract awarded to King Power for the new airport, the installation of a pipe-line system at the new airport, the airport security contract, whether tax should be paid on the Shin-Temasek deal, plus e-passports, smart cards, the new two- and three-digit lottery, the housing project for lower income groups, the tsunami relief project, the rubber plantation project, the longan price intervention scheme, land purchased by the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Co-operatives and the CDMA cellular network in 51 provinces.
Jaruvan revealed that seven people were likely to be found to have acted improperly in regard to the CTX scandal. And the cost of the pipe-line system at the new airport was unreasonably high - by up to Bt2 billion.
The results of an inquiry into the smart-card project would be sent to the media, Jaruvan said.
Committee members will meet tomorrow at the Auditor General's office. "We will discuss the scope of our duty,'' Sawat said.
Sawat urged the public to inform the committee about corruption by the Thaksin administration, but said allegations must be supported by evidence. He said he would move carefully if inquiries could have an impact on listed firms.
According to the CDRM's order on Sunday night, the assets probe committee to be chaired by Sawat will have seven other members: the auditor-general (Jaruvan), the attorney-general, the secretary-general of the NCCC, the secretary-general of the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO), the secretary-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the central bank governor and the judge advocate-general.
The Auditor General's office will act as the secretariat for the panel.
SEC secretary-general Thirachai Bhuvanatnaranubala said he was ready to be part of the special committee.
"We are ready to provide full support to the panel if the panel wants information available at the SEC," he said in statement yesterday.
Central bank governor MR Pridiyathorn Devakula said he would also be present at the panel's first meeting. However, he was not sure at present what cases would be investigated.