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Ministry calls meet on rice scheme suspects

The Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) has files on 853 alleged acts of malfeasance, graft and corruption against officials at ministries, government agencies and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC). (Post Today photo)

The Justice Ministry has invited anti-graft agencies to a meeting next week when it is expected to name the people to be probed in the 853 alleged corruption cases connected to the rice-pledging scheme.

The Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) last week said it had received 853 complaints of malfeasance mainly against officials at the Marketing Organisation for Farmers, the Public Warehouse Organisation and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives.

Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said Tuesday that the ministry has called anti-graft agencies to a meeting next week for an overview of the already concluded investigations targeting high-level policy-makers in charge of the rice programme.

The meeting will also point out the officials implicated by the complaints who will be sought for prosecution.

The agencies attending the meeting will include the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), the PACC, the Office of the Auditor-General and the Department of Special Investigation.

The Finance, Commerce and PM's Office ministries which handled the probes into top policy-makers from the previous government involved in the rice pledging programme will also join the session to provide a background on the investigations they carried out.

The meeting is expected to bring forth information that will be useful for prosecutors in proceeding with the cases.

Probes into the 853 cases will be conducted promptly and quickly, said Gen Paiboon, who also chairs the Centre for National Anti-Corruption (CNAC).

Also Tuesday, the CNAC said it has considered recommending the PACC set up sub-committees to probe the 853 alleged rice-pledging corruption cases, according to Prayong Preeyachitt, the PACC secretary-general.

Mr Prayong was speaking in his capacity as secretary to the CNAC.

In response to the cabinet resolution to assign CNAC to carry out probes against the state officials allegedly involved with the rice-pledging scandal, he said the CNAC would recommend that the PACC form sub-panels to probe each case.

Once they are formed, the sub-committees will be required to complete their tasks within six months, he said.

On Oct 1, the PACC Region 9 informed Mr Prayong of irregularities found in a pledged rice storage facility in tambon Tha Chang of Songkhla's Bang Klam district.

The PACC Region 9 said a contract was made with the PWO to house rice stock, despite the fact the contractor did not own any warehouses.

The contractor leased a warehouse to store the grain, collecting 500,000 baht every month.

The practice was a breach of regulations and prompted a local investigation into members of a provincial panel responsible for selecting storage facilities for rice.

The probe looked into why the contract had been granted and whether the firms chosen to fumigate the stock had used good quality chemicals.

The investigation also looked at related documents that need to be examined to find individuals or agencies that could be held accountable, according to the PACC.

Mr Prayong played down concerns raised over the likelihood that having the 853 cases probed separately would result in a delay in the progress of the investigations.

He said the information related to the alleged irregularities in the rice pledging scheme is now available since both ministries had finished their investigations into civil liabilities against alleged wrongdoers.

The civil liabilities probe ruled that former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and five others, mostly senior government officers, must pay a total of 20 billion baht in compensation for allegedly supporting a bogus G-to-G rice sales benefiting some local traders under the Yingluck Shinawatra administration.

The commerce minister has signed an order demanding the compensation.

Also, the Finance Ministry is waiting for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's decision on whether he would himself sign or co-sign an administrative order seeking 35.7 billion baht in compensation from former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra over her loss-ridden rice-pledging scheme, or authorise someone else to do so.

Gen Prayut had earlier hinted he would give the authority to sign the document to the Finance Ministry since they were involved in the probe panel.

Ms Yingluck was accused of turning a blind eye as prime minister to the alleged irregularities in the rice scheme.

He added all of the accused were entitled to appeal their cases in the Administrative Court.

The premier said the cases, with the appeals process factored in, would be concluded in two years.

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