Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ex-TAT governor indicted, Greens' sentencing postponed in Bangkok film fest bribery case

Juthamas Siriwan, the former governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, has been indicted by U.S. prosecutors, who say Juthamas and her daughter accepted US$1.8 million in bribes.

The indictment was unsealed in Los Angeles on Tuesday, two days before sentencing was scheduled for Gerald and Patricia Green, the husband-and-wife pair of Hollywood producers who were convicted of paying the bribes in order to land contracts to run the Bangkok International Film Festival and other tourism projects. The Greens were the first in the entertainment industry to be convicted under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which outlaws bribes to foreign officials.

The Nation has more of the story.

Update: Sentencing for the Greens, meanwhile, has been postponed until March 11. The Wrap was at the hearing:

[Judge George Wu] requested some sort of official statement from the Thai government declaring Thailand had been harmed by the Greens’ activities. When AUSA Bruce Searby pointed out the government’s sentencing statement contained such a letter, Wu replied that he didn’t think that Exhibit A was necessarily an official statement – even though the request to Wu to punish the perpetrators by Commissioner Medhi Krongkaew appears on Thai government stationary.

Then Wu seemed to signal a belief that the Greens’ crimes (bribing a foreign official, conspiracy, money laundering and tax fraud) weren’t to be considered all that serious because, allegedly, Thailand may have profited from the Greens’ work on its film festival – and because the Greens had no apparent competitors for the film festival contracts, anyway.

Reacting to the US charges and questions of whether the Siriwans will face charges in Thailand, Tharit Pengdit, the director-general Thailand's Department of Special Investigation, said it is up to the National Anti-Corruption Commission to decide how to proceed.

MCOT English News has more:

Col Piyawat Kingkate, who headed the investigation team probing Mrs Juthamas case in 2007, said the DSI coordinated with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in collecting the evidence.

In its investigation, Col Piyawat said, the DSI concluded that two offences were committed: bid rigging and the malfeasance of state official.

In consequence the department forwarded the case to the NACC in 2008 and the anti-graft commission appointed Commissioner Methee Krongkaew chairman of a committee investigating the alleged bribery scam involving the Bangkok [International] Film Festival.

In the U.S., prosecutors were looking to throw the book at Gerald Green, 78, for his role as ring-leader of the plot.

But The Wrap is citing a Justice Department source that says "prosecutors will seek far less than the roughly two centuries of maximum prison time". There is speculation the Greens may get a more lenient sentence.

Juthamas served as TAT governor from 2002 to 2006, and head of the Bangkok International Film Festival from 2003 to 2006.

Bangkok Pundit wonders whether the U.S. will seek to extradite Juthamas.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post says Juthamas' whereabouts are unknown. "A source at the Immigration Bureau said there was no record of the former TAT chief leaving the country," the Post reports.

On the issue of extradition, it's "possible", The Nation says and the newspaper quotes Sirisak Tiyaphan, director-general of the International Affairs Department under the Office of the Attorney General. "The process will be even shorter and easier if the US offences against her are the same that have been levied by the National Anti-Corruption Commission," said Sirisak.

Update 3: The Bangkok Post cites a source in the National Anti-Corruption Commission who says the NACC will ask the Anti-Money-Laundering Office to find out where the "alleged" bribe money went. The source also reveals that the FBI sent the NACC documents that "will speed up the NACC's investigation".

The Nation has more on Juthamas' possible extradition, and that her whereabouts are unknown.

And Scott Rosenberg posted a link to the indictment (PDF) (also here).

(Via Scott Rosenberg)

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