Former Thai ICT minister spends first night in jail

telecomasia.net

Former ICT Minister Doctor Surapong Suebwonglee is spending the night in jail after being found guilty of criminal malfeasance regarding an amendment to the Thaicom / Shin Satellite contract.

The case, brought by the counter corruption commission, accused Surapong and former ICT Ministry Permanent Secretary Kraisorn Pornsutee and former Space Administration Bureau director Chaiyan Pungkiatpairoj (himself later permanent secretary) of illegally amending the concession to allow Shin Corporation to lower its shareholding of Shin Satellite from not less than 51% to not less than 40%.

This materially changed the requisites in the concession contract as it would lessen the risk Shin Corporation had in Shin Satellite, and it could, though unlikely, open the way for the 60% of shareholders to get together to outvote concession holder Shin Corporation.

Such a material change would have needed cabinet approval.

The courts noted that while Surapong did submit evidence that he had asked the Thaksin Shinawatra cabinet for approval; and evidence that the attorney-general said he had the power to go ahead with the amendment whilst the cabinet approval was pending, Surapong had omitted one important detail.

The former ICT Minister withheld information from the attorney-general that the cabinet secretariat had refused to table the amendment as it would have been a conflict of interest.

Thaksin Shinawatra’s family and associates (driver, cook, and maid) still held a controlling stake in the company that bore his name at that time.

Doctor Surapong was given a one year jail sentence beginning immediately and was led away to jail immediately after the verdict was delivered. The two others were given one year jail sentences, suspended for five years.

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