A panel of the Supreme Court has completed an informal probe into a suspected Bt2-million bribery case at the court in which the culprit is being identified at this stage as a "lawyer who used to represent a politician".
The three Supreme Court justices - Mongkol Thapthiang, Weeraphol Tangsuwan and Issaret Chairat - are wrapping up the investigation, which is becoming a political focus.
A judicial source said the three justices had already completed an informal probe to gather sufficient information to reconstruct the attempted bribery.
The preliminary investigation found that at 12.30pm on Tuesday, a lawyer who used to represent a politician walked into the office of the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders, which handles the administrative affairs for the graft tribunal, a special court for corruption.
The lawyer filed a writ and then handed a bag of pastries to court officials. A clerk looked into the bag and noticed the cash. He then asked the lawyer about the money. The reply was: "Divide the money up among yourselves."
The officials were utterly shocked by the incident. As they were trying to alert their superiors and supervising judges, a senior judge happened to pass by the room and asked what had happened.
After hearing the incident, the senior judge instructed that the money be counted and photographed. The cash was returned to the lawyer, who was present throughout the checking process.
The photograph was considered sufficient evidence for a bribery case. The cash was returned in order to dispel a counter argument that money already changed hands.
The high court's graft division chairman Kriengkrai Juenjaturapit said it was unfortunate he was not present at the scene; otherwise, he would have ordered the seizure of the cash.
Pichit Chuenban, Thaksin Shinawatra's lawyer, denied he was the lawyer who tried to bribe court officials by offering a box of pastries containing Bt2 million in cash.
"Our team of lawyers was not involved in the attempt to influence the panel of judges. We feel the Supreme Court will give us justice," Pichit said.
"We don't need to do that. It was not even in our thoughts. I'm confident the fact-finding panel will find out [the truth] about the attempted-bribery allegation," he said.
Pichit admitted that he and other lawyers had gone to the court on Tuesday, having been assigned by Thaksin and his wife, Pojaman, to file a request to report to the Supreme Court. He said they were there no longer than 30 minutes and did not take any gifts for court officials.
Meanwhile, Senate Speaker Prasobsook Boondech, former head of the Appeal Court, said the case could seriously damage the court's credibility and that it must not be covered up.
Senator Rosana Tositrakul yesterday called on the judiciary to crack the case quickly.
"This story about the Bt2 million is weird. It's essential to get to the bottom of this devious scheme, in order to expose who is behind the money," she said.
Rosana was reacting in her capacity as chairwoman of the Senate committee on counter corruption and promotion of good governance.
People Power Party spokesman Kuthep Saikrajang said some ill-intentioned people might have staged the bribery in an attempt to discredit the government and ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra for interfering in the judicial process.
"The sham is beyond any common sense. It is a most stupid act and impossible to be linked to Thaksin," he said.
He said certain people might have plotted the scandal as a pretext for the People's Alliance for Democracy to justify its street protests.