Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Film festival bribery allegations ‘well founded’

The Department of Special Investigation has made public the findings of its probe into the Bangkok International Film Festival bribery allegations.

Simply put: the allegations were well founded, says Police Colonel Piyawat Kingket, the DSI’s special criminal litigation commissioner.

However, according to The Nation, Piyawat said the DSI does not have the authority to probe the case any further because the suspects were high-ranking officials.

The National Counter Corruption Commission has been asked to take over the case, and, presumably, they do have the authority to investigate.

The bribery scandal emerged in December with the arrests by the U.S. Justice Department of American film producer Gerald Green and his wife, Patricia. They are owners of Film Festival Management, a company the Greens created to run the festival for the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Together, Film Festival Management and the TAT put on soirees costing hundreds of millions of baht, involving red carpet galas, Hollywood stars and exclusive banquets and cocktail parties. And, oh yeah, they showed some films, too.

The U.S. Justice Department said that from "2003 and continuing into 2007, the Greens conspired with others to bribe a senior Thai government official who was, at the time, the president of the BKKIFF and the Governor of the TAT. As a result of her position at the TAT, the Governor was able to influence the awarding of the BKKIFF contracts as well as other TAT contracts. More than $1.7 million in payments were allegedly made for the benefit of the Governor."

The person holding the governorship of the TAT until 2006 was Juthamas Siriwan. She has threatened to sue the U.S. Justice Department for linking her to the case, but so far nothing has come of those threats.

The NCCC has since taken up the case and is pursuing leads of its own, including a look at why Juthamas was hired as an adviser to the Tourism Authority last year after she had left the governorship.

And, meanwhile, the Tourism Authority is still considering whether it will continue the Bangkok International Film Festival. Tentative dates are set for July 21 to 30, with the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand and the Thai Film Directors Association ready to run the show. They are just awaiting definitive word from the TAT.

More information:

(Via The Nation)

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