Two convicted and three acquitted in firetruck scandal

Former Bangkok governor Aiprak Kosayodhin, former interior minister Bhokin Polakul and former deputy commerce minister Watana Muangsook are today acquitted by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Offices in connection with the fire truck and boat scandal back in 2004.

However, the court found former deputy Interior minister Pracha Maleenont and Pol Maj-Gen Atilak Tanchkiat, former head of Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s Fire and Rescue Department, guilty of abuse of authority, price collusion and corruption over the 6.6 billion baht procurement deal with the Austrain supplier, Styr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug AG.

Pracha and Atilak were given 12 years and ten years imprisonment respectively.  But the two defendants did not show up when the court delivered the verdict this afternoon.  A warrant was subsequently issued by the court for their arrest so they would be brought before the court to hear the judgement scheduled on October 16.  The court also imposed a two million baht fine on the guarantors of the two defendants.

The court ruled that the 315 fire trucks bought from the Austrian supplier were highly overpriced.  It was discovered later on that most of the trucks were actually exported from Thailand to Austria and then imported.

As for the three other defendants, Apirak, Bhokin and Watana, the Supreme Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove against them as charged by the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

The scandal dated back to 2004 when then interior minister Bhokin signed an agreement of understanding with the Austrian ambassador to Thailand for the procurement of 315 fire trucks and 30 fire boats for the BMA from the Austrian supplier in exchange for boiled chicken in a counter trade deal.

The deal was signed by then Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej on the last day of his tenure at the City Hall.  Apirak, meanwhile, endorsed the issuance of letter of credit thus committing the BMA to the deal.

The NACC investigated the case from the beginning and decided to file charges of abuse of authority, corruption and price collusion against Pracha, Atilak, Bhokin, Apirak and Watana.  But the Office of the Attorney-General disagreed and wanted to spare Apirak, Bhokin and Watana claiming that the evidence against the trio was weak.

Finally, the NACC took the case to the Supreme Court against the five.