Monday, August 16, 2010

The continuing saga of the Bangkok Int'l Film Festival bribery scandal

With Hollywood producer couple Gerald and Patricia Green headed off to jail for paying bribes to run the Bangkok International Film Festival, legal proceedings are now swinging toward the recipient, who the U.S. Justice Department and Thai authorities say is Juthamas Siriwan.

The former governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand is said to have taken $1.8 million in bribes from the Greens, who used their Hollywood connections to bring film-industry heavyweights to Thailand to be wined and dined, put up in five-star resorts and appear on the red carpet at the film festival.

Juthamas and her daughter Jittisopa Siriwan are under indictment in the U.S., and a Thai case by the anti-graft watchdog, the National Anti-Corruption Commission, is pending.

The Nation on Sunday and MCOT had more:

Klanarong Chantik, spokesman for the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), said in a telephone interview that his agency could only ask Juthamas to defend herself before the NACC. If she did not show up, the NACC had no authority to bring her for investigation and it would mean that she had opted not to defend herself.

The NACC had asked the former TAT governor to give information but she had sent a letter to the agency, saying she needed time to prepare and look through documents on the matter. But Juthamas has yet to turn up at the NACC. However, Klanarong said, if the NACC found that she was guilty, it would then forward the case to the Office of the Attorney-General so the public prosecutors could indict her and take the matter to court.

Democrat Party MPs are calling on state agencies to be on the alert for bribery, and cooperate with investigations. In addition to the TAT case, a bribery scandal has also emerged at the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly.

The Nation had an editorial about the case, noting that "it's now Thailand's turn to act", and there are colorufl responses at the Thai Visa forum.

Meanwhile, a garbage collector who sold VCDs he gleaned from the trash has been fined 133,400 baht, for selling movies without a license.

Just shows where the priorities are.

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