Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung yesterday said that the money involved in a robbery at the home of suspended Transport Ministry permanent secretary Suphoth Sublom was a kickback in connection with bidding for extension of subway lines.
Chalerm told yesterday’s session of the House of Representatives that according to police investigation, the robbers were ordered to burgle the house by some politicians whom he did not name. He claimed the politicians wanted their share of the bribe.
“The money was obtained from corruption involving extended parts of the subway lines, such as the Red Line and the Yellow Line. I once spoke in Parliament about the corruption but people protested against me for making an ‘untrue accusation’,” Chalerm said.
He added that the government would ensure that the people involved in corruption would face legal action. However, he also said steps must be taken carefully to avoid any accusations of political persecution.
“The government will make sure the law is strictly applied. If any politician is found to be involved, legal action will be taken against him,” Chalerm said.
He also noted that police had confiscated Bt17.8 million from the robbers while Suphoth stated that Bt5 million was stolen.
The robbery took place at Suphoth’s home in Bangkok’s Lat Phrao area on the night of November 12. The permanent secretary for transport was later suspended from duty as the National Anti-Corruption Commission began an investigation to determine whether he had filed a false assets statement with the NACC, whether he had amassed ill-gotten gains, and whether he was involved in any irregularities. The anti-graft agency also impounded Bt15 million in cash retrieved from the suspects in the robbery pending the probe’s outcome.
Chalerm yesterday was responding to a query by fellow Pheu Thai MP Pichet Chuamuangpan from Chiang Rai, who asked Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra about the robbery case. Chalerm, who is in charge of the police, replied on behalf of the prime minister.
The veteran politician said he had instructed the National Police chief to determine the source of the bribe money from the ring labels around the banknotes confiscated. He said that in this way the police could trace the bank and the account from which the money was paid.
He said that from the ring labels, he found that some of the banknotes were from a bank in the Northeastern province of Udon Thani. He said a construction company from that province was involved in fixed bidding that allowed the company always to win project bids, thanks to its payment of kickbacks.
Pichet, the MP who raised the query, said people wondered whether former transport minister Sophon Saram from the Bhum Jai Thai Party – which is now in the opposition – might have earned more in kickbacks than the permanent secretary, who reportedly got Bt1 billion. Bhum Jai Thai spokesman Supachai Jaisamut protested against the insinuation and demanded that Pichet withdraw his allegation. House Speaker Somsak Kiartsuranond later ordered Pichet to withdraw his remark about Sophon.
Chalerm said the government had ordered the police to provide their information regarding Suphoth’s money to the NACC and the Anti-Money-Laundering Office. He added that he was convinced the Transport Ministry’s suspended top permanent official would be charged with filing false information about his wealth.
“For a person who has a lot of money but can’t explain how it is obtained, he deserves more than just being transferred to [an inactive post at] the Prime Minister’s Office,” the politician said.
In a related development, Sophon the former transport minister, scheduled a news conference for this morning at the Parliament building to explain the matter.
Bhum Jai Thai Party leader Chaovarat Charnvirakul yesterday threatened to sue Chalerm for defamation in connection with the mass-transit bribery allegation.
“I will check on Chalerm’s remarks and might sue for libel,” he said.
Chaovarat was reacting to the alleged linkage of his party and Sino-Thai Engineering Construction to the kickbacks paid to secure construction contracts for the extension of the mass-transit network, known as the Purple, Blue and Red lines.
According to Chalerm, the kickbacks came to light after the November 12 break-in at Suphoth’s home. Police have recovered about Bt17.8 million cash and estimated the loot to be more than Bt100 million.
national » ‘Burgled money was kickbacks’