Sunday, October 5, 2008

Film fest bribery case sprawls to the Elite Card

New charges have been filed in the U.S. against Hollywood producer Gerald Green and his wife Patricia, the couple accused last year of paying bribes to a former governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand so they could obtain contracts to run the Bangkok International Film Festival.

The new charges have to do with one of the Greens' companies getting a contract to produce an "elite privilege card" -- the Thailand Elite Card -- which for the current price of 1.5 million baht (around US$44,000) offers membership privileges to foreigners, such as fast-tracked immigration, a five-year visa, rides in airport limosines and free pases at five-star resorts, golf courses and spas.

Variety has the news from the Associated Press, and the Bangkok Post picked up on the story today (cache). The Post names that "former governor" -- Juthamas Siriwan.

The Elite Card has been a hot topic on such foreigner forums as Thai Visa. When it was first introduced in 2003, one of the privileges was the rather dubious claim that cardholders would be entitled to buy land.

The AP says the new indictment accuses the Greens of paying $1.8 million to "the TAT official" in exchange for being awarded lucrative business contracts that would earn them $14 million. They pleaded not guilty to the charges in the original indictment.

The Greens' Festival Management ran the Bangkok International Film Festival from 2004 to 2006, and the contract with their firm was canceled in late 2006 after Juthamas left the TAT governorship.

The Greens are to be arraigned on the new charges on October 14, the AP says.

Update: Bangkok Pundit has comments on this, and links to the Justice Department press release on the FCPA Blog.

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