Friday, January 18, 2008

Indictments handed down in Bangkok International Film Festival bribe scandal

Hollywood producer Gerald Green, 75, and his wife, Patricia, 52, were indicted on Wednesday by a federal jury in Los Angeles, on charges connected to the bribery of a senior Thai tourism official in order to win a contract to run the Bangkok International Film Festival.

According to the Associated Press, the indictment says the Greens gave a bribe of US$900,000 to "a senior official who at the time was president of the festival and governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand." The Bangkok Post and The Nation today take things a step further, and actually name the "senior official": Juthamas Siriwan, who was TAT governor from 2002 to 2006.

The Greens formed a company called Film Festival Management for the purpose of running the Bangkok International Film Festival, the indictment says.

They "used a variety of channels to hide the flow of illicit payments, including payments to Juthamas's daughter," the Post says. These included "different businesses, dummy addresses and telephone numbers," The Nation says.

The Greens are charged with violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and couple face up to 35 years in prison if convicted by trial.

A lawyer for Patricia Green is confident her client will prevail.

"Based on what we read in the indictment, we would dispute the allegations, and a trial will show what really happened," attorney Marilyn Bednarski was quoted as saying by the AP.

The Greens were arrested in Los Angeles on December 17. Even though Juthamas has denied any wrongdoing, she resigned from her position as a deputy leader of the Puea Pandin party just days before the December 23 general election, in order to prevent the scandal from harming the party's chances. That party now looks set to take part in a coalition to form the next Thai government.

When the scandal first broke, various anti-corruption officials said they would look into the Thai side of the scandal, but with the new government coming in, the widespread assumption is that it will be swept under the rug and forgotten about.

Meanwhile, there's been no word yet on when the 2008 Bangkok International Film Festival will be held, if ever.

(Via San Jose Mercury News, Bangkok Post, The Nation)

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