After years of investigation, Thailand’s counter corruption commission has voted to indict former ICT Minister Surapong Suebwonglee and two senior civil servants for criminal negligence in allowing amendments to Shincorp’s satellite concession without seeking cabinet approval.
The case was initiated by the post-2006 coup Assets Examination Commission set up to examine state deals that benefitted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. At the centre of the investigation was how in 2004 ICT Minister Surapong signed off a Shin Satellite request for parent Shincorp to lower its shareholding in the company from 51% to 40%, bringing in new capital to fund IP Star, but in doing so breaking the concession contract that required Shincorp, as winner of the concession, to own at least 51% of any subsidiary.
Also implicated were former ICT Permanent Secretary Kraisorn Pornsutee (now retired) and current permanent secretary Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, then director of the space affairs bureau.
The Ministry had consulted the attorney general who said that the reduction could be allowed and should not pose a meaningful difference, but noted that since the original concession was approved by the cabinet, any amendment was to be forwarded to the cabinet too. The CCC says that documents showed that one attempt was made at seeking cabinet approval when Thaksin was Prime Minister that failed to make it onto the cabinet agenda due ostensibly to the need to reduce paperwork for the cabinet.
Later, days after Kraisorn was promoted to permanent secretary, Chaiyan took up the case again and omitted the latter part of the attorney general’s comments in his report that finally saw the amendment approved.
The criminal case against all three will be forwarded to the attorney-general while a separate disciplinary case will be launched against Kraisorn and Chaiyan as per the civil service code.
None of the rulings effect Shin Satellite as of yet and focus only on the public sector individuals involved.