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Thai minister denies US$500m laundered to Hong Kong
Publication Date : 16-10-2012
Justice Minister Pracha Promnok yesterday dismissed reports that Thai politicians had sent 16 billion baht (US$521 million) to Hong Kong, saying anti-money laundering agencies from other countries, including Hong Kong, had denied the report.
He said after the reports emerged, Anti-Money Laundering Commission secretary-general Pol Colonel Sihanart Prayoonrat had met anti-money laundering agencies overseas, including Hong Kong.
"These reports were only released to discredit the government. Those who released these reports should think about the country, and not only seek political gain. They should have evidence before releasing information that can damage the country,'' he said.
Pracha said he had told the Justice permanent secretary to look into his deputy Pol Colonel Dussadee Arayawuthi's report to Parliament about the money transfer.
"The permanent secretary is investigating the report and has called on all concerned officials to provide statements. We will know the result of his findings soon," Pracha said.
Dussadee, meanwhile, said he had written to Justice permanent secretary Kittipong Kittayarak explaining that he had nothing to clarify because he had not told the Parliament about this issue. He explained that though the Anti-Corruption Network had filed a complaint about the matter while he was secretary-general Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), he did not have any details on the subject. But he would be happy to lead a fact-finding panel to investigate the issue.
While he had been asked to attend a September 6-8 meeting that included Hong Kong anti-money laundering officials, he could not go because he had been dismissed as PACC secretary-general.
Separately, Democrat party-list MP Ongart Klampaiboon insisted he did not lie about 16 billion baht being moved to Hong Kong as he had received the information from the Anti-Corruption Network and had called on the prime minister for verification.
Meanwhile, Phetchaburi Senator Sumol Sutawiriyawat, deputy chairman of the House committee on Education, Corruption Investigation and Good Governance, said her panel had summoned the Anti-Corruption Network to provide further details on Thursday and would seek relevant data from the Hong Kong Independent Commission against Corruption. If the ICAC denies the transfer, the probe would be dropped.
She said her committee had chosen to investigate the issue after receiving a complaint from the Anti-Corruption Network saying 16 billion baht had been moved to Hong Kong and had been frozen last week because nobody had come to claim it. The network alleges this money was siphoned from state funds earmarked for last year's flood victims.
Sumol said the network had asked the Hong Kong anti-money laundering agency for information, but was turned down on grounds that the network is not a state agency. In reaction to Pracha's announcement, she said that perhaps the minister does not know about the issue yet because the information acquired by the Anti-Corruption Network was still confidential.
Meanwhile, Anti-Corruption Network secretary-general Mongkolkit Suksintaranont insisted that Dussadee knew about Thai politicians' money-laundering activities in Hong Kong, because while at PACC, he had a list of companies and other agencies that were allegedly involved.
"Now, as deputy permanent secretary of the Justice Ministry, he cannot reveal the truth. I wonder if Dussadee was transferred out of PACC because he had this information?"
Mongkolkit said he believed China gave the government information about suspect money transfers every three months, but some people preferred to withhold it.
"My information is credible because our advisers have close ties with Hong Kong anti-corruption officials," he said.
He said members of his network had met their counterparts in Hong Kong between September 5-7 and learned that some 30 Thai politicians from the government camp and high-ranking officials had got together to transfer money to Hong Kong for laundering purposes.
National Anti-Corruption Commissioner Wicha Mahakhun said his agency had never received any reports about the matter from other agencies or from Hong Kong. He said both Thailand and China had a pact on exchanging information on corruption.